X-Ray Optics

DTU Space has developed a unique coating for x-ray and gamma-ray optical systems that will make it possible to design focusing telescopes even for the highest energy x-rays and gamma-rays.  Using this new technology, it will be possible to make detailed observations of objects in the universe that emit these very energetic forms of electro-magnetic radiation. Currently, all future satellite missions with focusing optics for this range of wavelengths will use precisely this technology for their mirrors.

DTU Space has created a revolutionary optical design with its development of a special sort of mirror coating for x-ray and gamma-ray optics. These coatings are based on microscopic multilayers with varying thicknesses. This makes it possible to see Bragg reflections over a wide range of energies. This technology is the basis for designing focusing telescope optics for high energy x-rays, and even gamma-rays, with a useable focal length and reasonable field of view.

To support research into focusing high energy x-ray optics, the Institute has built two unique, advanced facilities. One is a laboratory for high capacity magnetron sputtering, and the other is a facility for high resolution x-ray testing. 

The magnetron is used both to develop and optimize coatings with varying thicknesses, and to produce mirror segments for actual telescopes, e.g. the HEFT telescopes which were sent up on balloon missions. The magnetron facility's capacity is about 1 square meter of coating per run. 

Our x-ray test equipment uses perfect plane-cut crystals to achieve arc second angular resolution and monochromatic radiation. Various missions have used this facility to test their detectors and calibrate their optical systems.

Thanks to these facilities, DTU Space is able to participate in several international projects, like the HEFT balloon mission launched in 2005 and the NuSTAR satellite launched in June 2012. The institute also participates in the introductory studies for future projects with telescopes designed to observe high energy x-rays. Example of such projects is ATHENA, ESA´s proposal for a new X-ray Observatory. Other, smaller prototype projects also have contributions from the Institute in particular within ESA´s medium sized mission calls and NASA´s call for small and medium-sized explorers.