US20150117599A1 - X-ray interferometric imaging system - Google Patents

X-ray interferometric imaging system Download PDF

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US20150117599A1
US20150117599A1 US14/527,523 US201414527523A US2015117599A1 US 20150117599 A1 US20150117599 A1 US 20150117599A1 US 201414527523 A US201414527523 A US 201414527523A US 2015117599 A1 US2015117599 A1 US 2015117599A1
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ray
grating
interferometric imaging
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Wenbing Yun
Sylvia Jia Yun Lewis
Janos Kirz
Alan Francis Lyon
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Sigray Inc
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Priority claimed from PCT/US2014/063164 external-priority patent/WO2015066333A1/en
Assigned to SIGRAY, INC. reassignment SIGRAY, INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: KIRZ, Janos, LEWIS, SYLVIA JIA YUN, LYON, ALAN FRANCIS, YUN, WENBING
Priority claimed from US14/700,137 external-priority patent/US9719947B2/en
Publication of US20150117599A1 publication Critical patent/US20150117599A1/en
Priority claimed from EP15786098.2A external-priority patent/EP3136970B1/en
Priority claimed from CN201580026529.3A external-priority patent/CN107076682B/en
Priority claimed from EP15792865.6A external-priority patent/EP3143384B1/en
Priority claimed from US14/712,917 external-priority patent/US9874531B2/en
Priority claimed from KR1020167035091A external-priority patent/KR20170009909A/en
Priority claimed from US15/954,380 external-priority patent/US10304580B2/en
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    • G01N23/046Investigating or analysing materials by the use of wave or particle radiation, e.g. X-rays or neutrons, not covered by groups G01N3/00 – G01N17/00, G01N21/00 or G01N22/00 by transmitting the radiation through the material and forming images of the material using tomography, e.g. computed tomography [CT]
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    • HELECTRICITY
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    • A61B6/4208Apparatus for radiation diagnosis, e.g. combined with radiation therapy equipment with arrangements for detecting radiation specially adapted for radiation diagnosis characterised by using a particular type of detector
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    • A61B6/4208Apparatus for radiation diagnosis, e.g. combined with radiation therapy equipment with arrangements for detecting radiation specially adapted for radiation diagnosis characterised by using a particular type of detector
    • A61B6/4233Apparatus for radiation diagnosis, e.g. combined with radiation therapy equipment with arrangements for detecting radiation specially adapted for radiation diagnosis characterised by using a particular type of detector using matrix detectors
    • GPHYSICS
    • G21NUCLEAR PHYSICS; NUCLEAR ENGINEERING
    • G21KTECHNIQUES FOR HANDLING PARTICLES OR IONISING RADIATION NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; IRRADIATION DEVICES; GAMMA RAY OR X-RAY MICROSCOPES
    • G21K2207/00Particular details of imaging devices or methods using ionizing electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays
    • G21K2207/005Methods and devices obtaining contrast from non-absorbing interaction of the radiation with matter, e.g. phase contrast

Abstract

We disclose an x-ray interferometric imaging system in which the x-ray source comprises a target having a plurality of structured coherent sub-sources of x-rays embedded in a thermally conducting substrate. The system additionally comprises a beam-splitting grating G1 that establishes a Talbot interference pattern, which may be a π phase-shifting grating, and an x-ray detector to convert two-dimensional x-ray intensities into electronic signals. The system may also comprise a second analyzer grating G2 that may be placed in front of the detector to form additional interference fringes, and a means to translate the second grating G2 relative to the detector.
In some embodiments, the structures are microstructures with lateral dimensions measured on the order of microns, and with a thickness on the order of one half of the electron penetration depth within the substrate. In some embodiments, the structures are formed within a regular array.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This Patent Application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Nos. 61/898,019, entitled “X-ray Phase Contrast imaging System” and filed on Oct. 31, 2013; 61/901,361, entitled “An X-ray Source Consisting of an Array of Fine Sub-Sources” and filed on Nov. 7, 2013; and 61/981,098 entitled “Two Dimensional Phase Contrast Imaging Apparatus” and filed Apr. 17, 2014, all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The embodiments of the invention disclosed herein relate to interferometric imaging systems using x-rays, and in particular, interferometric imaging systems comprising high-brightness sources of x-rays for generating phase-contrast images. The high brightness x-ray sources may use anodes or targets comprising periodic microstructures of x-ray generating materials embedded in a thermally conducting substrate of low atomic number material.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • The initial discovery of x-rays by Röntgen in 1895 [W. C. Röntgen, “Eine Neue Art von Strahlen (Würzburg Verlag, 1895); “On a New Kind of Rays,” Nature, Vol. 53, pp. 274-276 (Jan. 23, 1896)] occurred when Röntgen was experimenting with electron bombardment of targets in vacuum tubes. The contrast between the absorption from bone containing calcium (atomic number Z=20) and soft tissue containing mostly carbon (Z=6), was immediately apparent because the absorption difference between the two materials at x-ray energies between 5 and 30 keV can differ by a factor of 10 or more, as illustrated in FIG. 1. These high energy, short wavelength photons are now routinely used for medical applications and diagnostic evaluations, as well as for security screening, industrial inspection, quality control and failure analysis, and for scientific applications such as crystallography, tomography, x-ray fluorescence analysis and the like.
  • Although x-ray shadowgraphs have become a standard medical diagnostic tool, there are problems with simple absorption contrast imaging. Notably, for tests such as mammograms, variations in biological tissue may result in only a subtle x-ray absorption image contrast, making unambiguous detection of tumors or anomalous tissue difficult.
  • In the past decade, a new kind of x-ray imaging methodology has emerged, based on x-ray phase contrast interferometry. The method relies on the well-known Talbot interference effect, originally observed in 1837 [H. F. Talbot, “Facts relating to optical science No. IV”, Philos. Mag. vol. 9, pp. 401-407,1836] and fully explained by Lord Rayleigh in 1881 [Lord Rayleigh, “On copying diffraction gratings and some phenomena connected therewith,” Philos. Mag. vol. 11, pp. 196-205 (1881)].
  • This effect is illustrated in FIG. 2. For an absorbing grating G of period p, the diffraction pattern from a monochromatic beam of a wavelength λ with sufficient coherence forms a repeating interference pattern that reconstructs the original grating pattern, (known as a “self-image”) at multiples of a distance known as the Talbot Distance DT. For the case when the incident beam is a plane wave (equivalent to a source located at infinity from the grating G), DT is given by:
  • D T = 2 p 2 λ [ Eqn . 1 ]
  • Between the grating G and the Talbot Distance, other periodic interference patterns emerge as well. The periodicity and the position of the Talbot fringes depend on the transmission properties of the grating G, including amount of phase-shift and percent of absorption, and grating line-to-space (opening) ratio, or duty factor. For example, for a periodic absorption grating, a fringe pattern that reconstructs of the original grating pattern with a lateral shift by half the grating period occurs at half the Talbot Distance DT/2, and a fringe pattern with a period of half of the original grating period occurs at one quarter of the Talbot Distance DT/4 and at three quarters of the Talbot Distance 3DT/4, as illustrated in FIG. 2. These 2-D interference patterns are sometimes called a “Talbot Carpet” because of the resemblance of these complex patterns to ornate oriental carpets. [Note: this image of an Optical Talbot Carpet in FIG. 2 is adapted from a file created by Ben Goodman and available at <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Optical_Talbot_Carpet.png>.]
  • FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate a prior art Talbot interferometric comprising a partially coherent source 200 (shown as a microfocus source) of x-rays 288 and a beam splitting grating G1 210 of period p1 that establishes a set of Talbot interference fringe patterns 289. It should be noted that the coherence length of the x-ray source is preferably set to be comparable to or larger than the period p1 of the beam splitting grating G1 210, so that the Talbot interference fringes will have high contrast. The beam splitting grating 210 may be an amplitude (also known an absorption or transmission) grating, creating intensity fringes as illustrated in FIG. 2, but is more typically a phase grating for efficient use of the illuminating x-rays, introducing periodic phase-shifts to the x-ray pattern that also form periodic Talbot fringes 289. Henceforth in this application, a transmission grating will be used to describe gratings in which the x-ray transmission through the grating lines is less than 10% and a phase grating will be used to describe gratings in which the phase shift through the grating lines is a fraction (e.g. ½) or odd integer multiple of π.
  • The Talbot fringes 289 are detected using an x-ray detector 290, preferably with a spatial resolution equal to or better than one third of the Talbot fringe period and having a high x-ray quantum detection efficiency. The detector 290 transforms the x-ray intensity pattern into electronic signals that are transmitted over a connector 291 to an image processing system 295. When an object is placed in the beam path, the image processing system 295 is used to process the x-ray intensity pattern intensity information 298 to obtain absorption, phase, and scattering contrast images.
  • In practice, the spatial resolution of the detector 290 (such as a flat panel detector, or a charge coupled device (CCD) detector coupled with a scintillator that converts x-rays to visible light) is often on the order of tens of micrometers or larger, and the Talbot fringes 289 may be too fine to detect directly with the detector 290. In this case, an analyzer grating G2 220 of period p2 is often used to produce Moire fringes. To record a complete set of images, the analyzer grating G2 220 will be moved in predetermined distances orthogonal to the grating period and relative to the detector to collect multiple interference patterns in a process called “phase-stepping”, or less commonly, rotated at a small angle relative to G1 to obtain a Moiré pattern in a single-shot image for Fourier analysis. The image(s) are then processed to reconstruct the wavefront and determine the shapes, structures, and composition of the objects that created them.
  • It should also be noted that, instead of physically moving the analyzer grating 220, the position of the x-ray source may also be displaced to create a translation of the interference images that allows the collection of phase-shift information. This can be accomplished electronically by moving the position of the electron beam that bombards the x-ray generating material that serves as the source for the x-rays [see, for example, H. Miao et al., “Motionless phase stepping in X-ray phase contrast imaging with a compact source”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110(48) pp. 19268-19272, 2013] or by physically moving the x-ray source relative to a fixed position of the analyzer grating 220.
  • These grating-based x-ray phase-contrast imaging (XPCI) techniques are generally referred to as “grating-based interferometry” (GBI).
  • As illustrated so far, the grating interferometer only produces interference fringes, and the analysis of these fringes will reveal the structure of the already known grating G1 210 or the wavefront of the illumination beam. However, when an object is introduced in the path of the x-ray beam, variations in the wavefront introduced by the object result in corresponding changes in the pattern of the Talbot interference fringes, generally known as Moiré fringes. Interferometric image reconstruction techniques may then be used to analyze the wavefront and reconstruct images representing the structure of the unknown object.
  • In FIG. 5, the prior art Talbot interferometer of FIGS. 3 and 4 is illustrated being used as an imaging technique for a biological sample, in this case, a mouse 240-M, placed between the source 200 and the beam splitting grating G1 210. The x-rays 288 from the coherent source 200 pass through the mouse 240-M and the beam splitting grating G1 210 and create a perturbed set of Talbot fringes 289-M. The local phase shifts create angular deviations that translate into changes of locally transmitted intensity when analyzed by the analyzer grating G2 220 and detector 290. Collecting multiple images from the x-ray detector 290 for situations where the analyzer grating G2 220 has been displaced by multiple predetermined positions allow a recording of the interference pattern 289-M.
  • As before, the detector 290 transforms the x-ray intensity pattern into electronic signals that transmitted over a connector 291 to an image processing system 295 used to produce one or more images 298-M with absorption, differential phase, phase, and scattering contrast information. Numerical processing of the images, including images collected by the system with and without the object under investigation, can be used to infer the shapes and structure of the objects that created them, including objects such as the mouse 240-M. The recorded intensity oscillations can be represented by a Fourier series, and with the proper image processing algorithms, differential phase shift and absorption signals can be extracted, and images corresponding to x-ray absorption, phase contrast, and scattering by the object can be synthesized. [See, for example, A. Momose et al., “Demonstration of x-ray Talbot interferometry”, Jpn. J. Appl. Phys. 42, pp. L866-L868, 2003; A. Momose, U.S. Pat. No. 7,180,979, issued Feb. 20, 2007; and T. Weitkamp et al. “Hard X-ray phase imaging and tomography with a grating interferometer”, Proc. SPIE vol 5535, pp. 137-142, 2004, and “X-ray phase imaging with a grating interferometer”, Optics Express vol. 13(16), pp. 6296-6304, 2005.]
  • It should be noted that other configurations exist in which the object, such as a mouse 240-M, can be placed between the beam splitting grating G1 210-A and the analyzer grating G2 220 and detector 290, as illustrated in FIG. 6. Other configurations using various phase and amplitude gratings, or using detector 290 with higher resolution pixels without the analyzer grating 220, may also be known to those skilled in the art.
  • Aside from imaging the anatomy of mice, clinical applications of phase-contrast x-ray imaging may be found in mammography, where the density of cancerous tissue may have a distinct phase signature from healthy tissue [see, for example, J. Keyriläinen et al., “Phase contrast X-ray imaging of breast”, Acta Radiologica vol. 51 (8) pp. 866-884, 2010], or for bone diseases like osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, in which the angular orientation of the bone structures may be an early indicator of bone disease [See, for example, P. Coan et al., “In vivo x-ray phase contrast analyzer-based imaging for longitudinal osteoarthritis studies in guinea pigs”, Phys. Med. Biol. vol. 55(24), pp. 7649-62, 2010].
  • However, for the prior art configurations described so far, x-ray power is a problem. An x-ray source with a full-width half maximum diameter S given by
  • S λ L 2 π p 1 [ Eqn . 2 ]
  • where p1 is the period of the beam splitting grating G1 210 and L the distance between the source 200 and the beam splitting grating G1 210, is required for the technique to produce high contrast fringes and Moire patterns. For practical applications and system geometries, this implies a microfocus source. However, electron bombardment of the target also causes heating, and the x-ray power that can be achieved is limited by the maximum total electron power that can fall on the microspot without melting the x-ray generating material. A limited electron power means a limited x-ray power, and the low x-ray flux achievable with typical x-ray targets may lead to unacceptable long exposure times when used, for example, for mammography or other diagnostic tests involving live patients or animals. The total x-ray flux can be increased by distributing higher electron power over a larger area, but then the source becomes less coherent, degrading the image contrast.
  • Coherent x-rays of higher brightness and sufficient flux can be achieved by using a synchrotron or free-electron laser x-ray source, but these machines may occupy facilities that cover acres of land, and are impractical for use in clinical environments.
  • One innovation that has been shown to enable greater x-ray power employs an additional grating G0 [see, for example, John F. Clauser, U.S. Pat. No. 5,812,629, issued Sep. 22, 1998]. Such a system is illustrated in FIG. 7. In this configuration, a source grating G0 300 with period p0, which is typically an x-ray transmission grating, is used in front of an x-ray source 300. In this case, the x-ray source may be a high-power extended source with a large incident electron beam area (and not a microfocus source) that produces a higher total flux of x-rays.
  • The x-rays 388 pass through the grating G0 308 and emerge from the grating apertures as an array of individually spatially coherent (similar to a microfocus source described above) but mutually incoherent sub-sources of illumination for the beam splitting grating G1. To ensure that each x-ray sub-source in G0 contributes constructively to the image-formation process, the geometry of the setup should satisfy the condition:
  • p 0 = p 2 L D [ Eqn . 3 ]
  • When the condition is met, the x-rays from the many apertures of G0 produce the same (overlapping) Talbot interference pattern, and because the various mutually incoherent sources do not interfere with each other, these Talbot patterns will add as intensities. The effect at the detector 290 is therefore to simply increasing the signal (along with it the signal-to-noise ratio) over what a single coherent source can provide.
  • This configuration is called the Talbot-Lau interferometer [see Franz Pfeiffer et al., “Phase retrieval and differential phase-contrast imaging with low-brilliance X-ray sources”, Nature Physics vol. 2, pp. 258-261, 2006; and also Described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,889,838 by Christian David, Franz Pfeiffer and Timm Weitkamp, issued Feb. 15, 2011].
  • FIG. 8 illustrates x-ray images of a live mouse collected using a Talbot-Lau interferometer, as reported by Martin Bech [M. Bech et al., “In-vivo dark-field and phase-contrast x-ray imaging”, Scientific Reports 3, Article number: 3209, 2013, FIG. 1]. The x-ray energy used was 31 keV, and the gratings were fabricated by lithographically etching structures in silicon (Z=14). Absorption gratings G0 for the source and G2 for the analyzer were created by additionally coating the patterned silicon with gold (Z=79).
  • All of the images of FIG. 8 were reported as reconstructed from the same set of 5 interferometric images, each collected over an exposure time of 10 seconds. The raw images were Fourier processed and ramp corrected to obtain the three image modalities. FIG. 8A illustrates an intensity image based on x-ray attenuation, showing the absorption contrast between the bones and soft tissue. FIG. 8B illustrates a phase-contrast image, which clearly identifies soft tissue structures such as the trachea (illustrated with an arrow). FIG. 8C illustrates an additional dark-field contrast image due to x-ray scattering from fine features with linear dimensions less than the spatial resolution of the imaging system, which strongly highlights the fur and lungs.
  • Unfortunately, the current art of Talbot-Lau GBIs have many constraints for most practical applications such as clinical imaging, including a requirement that both the source grating G0 and the analyzer grating G2 have fine pitches and apertures with large aspect ratios.
  • The requirement for the source grating G0 is to create fine individual well-separated x-ray sub-sources to minimize the reduction in image contrast due to unwanted transmission of x-rays through the aperture defining structures. However, for a 1:1 line-to-space ratio grating, simple x-ray shadowing dictates that the x-ray transmission through the grating is limited to less than 50%, and is reduced further when the angular shadowing (limiting the angular range of the x-rays from the source to reach the object) is included. Furthermore, the optimal line-to-space ratio for G0 that reduces the radiation dose to the object (which is important to preclinical and clinical imaging applications) is closer to 3:1 rather than 1:1. In this case, about 75% of the x-rays from the source are blocked due to area shadowing alone, and when gratings with large aspect ratios are used, greater losses occur due to angular shadowing.
  • The requirement for the analyzer grating G2 is to be able to sample the Talbot interference fringes with sufficient resolution without losing contrast. As a result, both the G0 and G2 gratings must have small apertures and be of thickness sufficient to minimize unwanted x-ray transmission, which limits the efficient use of the x-rays from the source. Furthermore, the loss from the analyzer grating G2 further results in a significantly higher dose (relative to the same system without a G2 grating) for the object under investigation to produce an image with good characteristics due to multiple exposures for phase-stepping and absorption of x-rays resulting in lower signal-to-noise. When the object under investigation is a live animal or human, higher doses of ionizing radiation are undesirable and generally discouraged.
  • If the aperture dimensions of the grating G0 are larger, angular collimation can be reduced (although not the area shadowing) so that x-ray transmission is not reduced as severely, but this reduces the spatial coherence length of the x-ray beam downstream from the apertures, and leads a reduction in image contrast. Smaller apertures can increase the possible image contrast and resolution by improving spatial coherence, but decreases the overall number of x-rays in the system, thus requiring longer exposure times. Moreover, with smaller apertures, these fine gratings become more difficult to manufacture.
  • The problem is exacerbated when attempting to use a Talbot-Lau interferometer for higher energy x-rays, which are often desired to obtain sufficient transmission through an object and to reduce ration does. In general, as was illustrated in FIG. 1, the absorption of x-rays for biological tissue is far lower for x-rays with energy greater than 5 keV, and the use of higher energy x-rays will reduce the absorbed dose of potentially harmful ionizing radiation by orders of magnitude. However, 5 keV photons have a wavelength of 0.248 nm, and 50 keV have a wavelength 10 times smaller (0.0248 nm). Furthermore, building absorbing gratings such as G0 and G2 for these higher energy, shorter wavelength x-rays can present difficulties, as the thickness of the gratings must increase exponentially to maintain the same absorption factor for higher energy x-rays (the x-ray attenuation length is approximately proportional to Ekev 3).
  • The preceding problems of Talbot-Lau GBIs using linear gratings, which can be used for collecting interference data in one dimension only, become more severe if one wishes to generate phase-contrast images in two orthogonal directions. This is often required to make the image reconstruction robust and images more understandable, and because features parallel to the grating lines in the 1-D case are typically less accurately measured. One simple approach is to perform XPCI in two orthogonal directions and then subsequently register the two datasets properly. In addition to challenges associated with the imaging and registration processes, this approach may not be practical, especially when used with living subjects who may move or simply become impatient, and who will incur increased dosage (doubled) if the phase stepping must be performed in two directions. Simultaneous two-dimensional XPCI would be desirable, especially if data collection in a single exposure (shot) and at high x-ray energies is possible to reduce exposure times and the absorbed dosage.
  • There is therefore a need for an x-ray interferometric imaging system that offers the resolution and detection capabilities of the Talbot-Lau interferometer, but employing a brighter compact source of x-rays and, ideally, a brighter source of higher energy x-rays, especially one that could provide simultaneous two-dimensional phase-contrast imaging.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • We disclose here an x-ray interferometric imaging system in which the x-ray source comprises a target having a plurality of microstructured x-ray generating materials arranged within a periodic array pattern to form periodic sub-sources of x-rays. The system additionally comprises a beam-splitting grating G1 that creates a Talbot interference pattern, and an x-ray detector to convert two-dimensional x-ray intensities into electronic signals.
  • If the spatial resolution of the detector is equal to or better than one third of the Talbot fringe period, the detector may record the fringes directly. The system may also comprise a second analyzer grating G2 that may be placed in front of the detector to form additional interference fringes, and a means to translate the analyzer grating G2 relative to the detector to create Moire fringes at the detector. Additionally, the system may comprise a means of translating the phase grating G1 relative to the analyzer grating G2.
  • The x-ray source target comprises a plurality of microstructures of x-ray generating materials (such as molybdenum or tungsten) in close thermal contact with a thermally conducting substrate of a low atomic number material, such as diamond or beryllium. The x-ray generating microstructures may be arranged in a periodic pattern, with each periodic element of the pattern corresponding to a single discrete microstructure or alternatively, with each periodic element of the pattern comprising multiple discrete microstructures. One or more sources of electrons bombard the plurality of x-ray generating materials, which are generally arranged within a periodic array, so that the x-ray generated from each periodic array element serves as an individually coherent sub-source of x-rays of illumination for the beam splitting grating G1. In some embodiments, the microstructures have lateral dimensions measured on the order of microns, and with a thickness on the order of one half of the electron penetration depth within the substrate material. In some embodiments, the microstructures are formed in a regular two-dimensional array.
  • The beam splitting grating G1 may be a phase grating or an absorption grating. The analyzer grating G2 is generally a transmission grating. Both gratings G1 and G2 may be fabricated as lithographically produced microstructures in silicon, and may comprise 1-D structures, 2-D structures, or combinations thereof.
  • A particular advantage of the invention is that high x-ray brightness and large x-ray power may be achieved by using an x-ray target in which the microstructures of a high Z material are in close thermal contact with, or embedded in, a substrate of low Z material and high thermal conductivity, such as beryllium or diamond. The ability of the substrate to draw heat away from the x-ray generating material allows higher electron density and power to be used, generating greater x-ray brightness and power from each of the sub-sources. This results in the creation of individual, well-separated spatially coherent x-ray sub-sources from the high Z material, while the use of a substrate with low Z and low mass density minimizes the production of x-rays from the substrate that can lead to a reduction in image contrast.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a plot of the x-ray absorption of carbon and calcium as a function of x-ray energy.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a prior art Talbot interference pattern produced by a transmission grating.
  • FIG. 3 illustrates a prior art x-ray grating interference system using a microfocus source.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates a cross section view of the prior art x-ray grating interference system of FIG. 3.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates the prior art x-ray grating interference system of FIG. 3 used to form an x-ray contrast image of a mouse.
  • FIG. 6 illustrates a variation of the prior art x-ray grating interference system of FIG. 3 used to form an x-ray contrast image of a mouse.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates a prior art Talbot-Lau interferometer being used to form an x-ray contrast image of a mouse.
  • FIG. 8A illustrates a published x-ray absorption image of a mouse gathered using a prior art Talbot-Lau interference system.
  • FIG. 8B illustrates a published x-ray phase-contrast image of a mouse gathered using a prior art Talbot-Lau interference system.
  • FIG. 8C illustrates a published x-ray dark field scattering image of a mouse gathered using a prior art Talbot-Lau interference system.
  • FIG. 9 illustrates a schematic cross-section view of an embodiment of an x-ray interferometric imaging system according to the invention.
  • FIG. 10 illustrates a schematic cross-section view of an embodiment of the invention.
  • FIG. 11 illustrates a perspective view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 10, in which the x-ray target comprises two dimensional periodic array of x-ray generating microstructures.
  • FIG. 12 illustrates a detailed schematic cross-section view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 10 and 11.
  • FIG. 13 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention in which the x-ray target comprises of x-ray generating microstructures in the form of parallel lines.
  • FIG. 14 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention in which the object (a mouse) is placed between the gratings G1 and G2.
  • FIG. 15 illustrates a detailed schematic cross-section view of an embodiment of the invention in which a high-resolution detector is used without an analyzer grating.
  • FIG. 16 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention in which the object (a mouse) is placed between the grating G1 and the detector, and the grating G1 comprises a two-dimensional phase structure.
  • FIG. 17 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention in which the object (a mouse) is placed between the source and the grating G1, and the grating G1 comprises a two-dimensional phase structure.
  • FIG. 18 illustrates a schematic cross-section view of an embodiment of the invention in which the target is mounted within the vacuum chamber.
  • FIG. 19 illustrates a detailed schematic cross-section view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 18.
  • FIG. 20 illustrates a schematic cross-section view of an embodiment of the invention in which the target is mounted within the vacuum chamber and x-rays are generated using linear accumulation.
  • FIG. 21 illustrates a detailed schematic cross-section view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 20.
  • FIG. 22 illustrates a schematic cross-section view of an embodiment of the invention in which two electron beams bombard the target from both sides.
  • FIG. 23 illustrates a detailed schematic cross-section view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 22.
  • FIG. 24 illustrates a perspective view of a target comprising a grid of embedded rectangular target microstructures on a larger substrate that may be used in some embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 25 illustrates a perspective view of a variation of a target comprising a grid of embedded rectangular target microstructures on a larger substrate for use with focused electron beam that may be used in some embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 26A illustrates a perspective view of a target comprising a grid of embedded rectangular target microstructures as used in some embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 26B illustrates a top view of the target of FIG. 26A.
  • FIG. 26C illustrates a side/cross-section view of the target of FIGS. 26A and 26B.
  • FIG. 27A illustrates a perspective view of a target comprising a set of embedded rectangular target microstructures forming a periodic linear pattern as used in some embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 27B illustrates a top view of the target of FIG. 27A.
  • FIG. 27C illustrates a side/cross-section view of the target of FIGS. 27A and 27B.
  • FIG. 28 illustrates variations in target structure for a target as shown in FIG. 26 that may arise from processing variations.
  • FIG. 29 illustrates variations in target structure for a target as shown in FIG. 27 that may arise from processing variations.
  • FIG. 30 illustrates a cross-section view of a portion of the target of FIG. 26, showing thermal transfer to a thermally conducting substrate under electron beam exposure according to the invention.
  • FIG. 31 illustrates a cross-section view of a variation of the target of FIGS. 26 and 30 comprising a substrate with a thermal cooling channel according to the invention.
  • FIG. 32 illustrates a cross-section view of another variation of the target of FIG. 26 comprising an adhesion layer according to the invention.
  • FIG. 33 illustrates a cross-section view of another variation of the target of FIG. 26 comprising an electrically conducting overcoat according to the invention.
  • FIG. 34 illustrates a cross-section view of another variation of the target of FIG. 26 comprising buried x-ray material according to the invention.
  • FIG. 35 illustrates a cross-section view of another variation of the target of FIG. 26 comprising buried x-ray material and a thick thermally and electrically conducting overcoat according to the invention.
  • FIG. 36 illustrates a cross-section view of another variation of the target of FIG. 26 comprising an additional blocking structures on the back surface of the substrate, to block the transmission of x-rays produced by the substrate
  • FIG. 37 illustrates a plot of the x-ray absorption of gold and silicon as a function of x-ray energy.
  • FIG. 38 illustrates a possible structure of an x-ray phase grating according to some embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 39 illustrates a possible structure of an x-ray absorption grating according to some embodiments of the invention.
  • Note: The illustrations in the Drawings disclosed in this Application are typically not shown to scale, and are meant to illustrate the principle of the invention and its function only, and not specific relationships between the microstructures in the target and the various grating periods p1, p2 and p3. Please refer to the descriptions in the text of the Specification for specific details of the dimensions of these objects.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION 1. Descriptions of Various Embodiments of the Invention
  • One embodiment of the invention disclosed herein is an x-ray phase-contrast imaging (XPCI) system as illustrated in FIG. 9. The system bears some similarity to the prior art Talbot-Lau interferometer, in that it comprises a beam splitting grating G1 210 of period p1 that establishes a Talbot interference pattern, and an x-ray detector 290 typically comprising an array of sensors to convert two-dimensional x-ray intensities into electronic signals. The beam splitting grating G1 210 may be a phase grating or a transmission grating, and may comprise 1-D periodic patterns (linear gratings), or may comprise more complex 2-D structures such as a grid that is periodic in two orthogonal directions. The system may also comprise an analyzer grating G2 220 of period p2 that may be placed in front of the detector to form additional interference fringes, such as Moiré fringes. The system may additionally comprise a means 225 to translate the analyzer grating G2 220 relative to the detector, and a connector 291 to transmit electronic signals corresponding to the detected x-ray intensity to an image processing system 295 for processing.
  • However, instead of using an extended x-ray source and an additional grating G0 to create a plurality of x-ray source spots, as was done in the Talbot-Lau system, the embodiments of the present invention use an x-ray source comprising a plurality of x-ray generating sub-sources 108 arranged in a periodic array that generate x-rays 188 from electron beam bombardment, such that each sub-source is individually coherent, but together function as a set of mutually incoherent or partially coherent sub-sources of illumination for the beam splitting grating G1. As with the combination of the extended x-ray source and the source grating of the Talbot-Lau interferometer, these sub-sources 108 form the Talbot interference fringe patterns that are created by the beam splitting grating G1 210 and perturbed by an object 240-M, and may be recorded by detector 290. If the spatial resolution of the detector 290 has a spatial resolution equal to or better than one third of the Talbot fringe period, the detector may record the fringes directly. If a lower resolution detector is used, an analyzer grating G2 220 may also be used to create Moire fringes, as was described for the Talbot-Lau interferometer.
  • The plurality of discrete x-ray sub-sources can be considerably brighter than the x-ray source of the Talbot-Lau system. Because the source comprises sub-sources that are self-coherent but may be mutually incoherent, there is no need for an attenuating transmission grating G0 to create an array of sub-sources from an extended x-ray source.
  • A system according to the invention comprising multiple sub-sources in a structured target may be designated a Talbot-ST interferometer.
  • FIGS. 10, 11 and 12 show a more detailed illustration of one embodiment of the invention, in which the array of sub-sources are formed using microstructures of x-ray generating material embedded in a thermally conducting substrate. In this embodiment, an x-ray source 008 illuminates an object 240-M and a beam-splitting grating G1 210, and the interference pattern they form is detected by a detector 290.
  • For the x-ray source 008, a high voltage power supply 010 provides electrons through a lead 021 to an electron emitter 011 in a vacuum chamber 002 held to a shielding housing 005 by supports 003. The electron emitter 011 emits electrons 111 towards a target 100. The target 100 comprises a substrate 1000 and a region that comprises a periodic array of discrete microstructures 700 comprising x-ray generating material (typically a high Z metallic material such as copper, molybdenum or tungsten) positioned on or embedded or buried in the substrate (typically a low Z material such as beryllium, diamond, silicon carbide). The discrete microstructures 700 may be any number of sizes or shapes, but are generally designed to be periodic arrays of right rectangular prisms with lateral dimensions on the order of microns in size in at least one dimension, such that the emission from each microstructure acts as a sub-source of x-rays with a spatial coherence length that is comparable to or larger than the grating period p1 at the beam splitting grating G1 210. Additionally, the microstructures are preferably of a thickness (as typically measured orthogonal to the target surface) that is on the order of one half of the electron penetration depth within the substrate material.
  • The period p0 of the microstructures 700 that form the x-ray sub-sources is related to the other geometric parameters in the system by:
  • p 0 = p 2 L D [ Eqn . 4 ]
  • where L is the distance from the x-ray sub-sources 700 to the grating G1 210, and D is the distance from the grating G1 to the detector/analyzer grating G2 220 with period p2. In some embodiments, D will be set to be one of the fractional Talbot distances with interference fringes of high contrast (visibility), defined by:
  • Contrast = I max - I min I max + I min [ Eqn . 5 ]
  • where Imax and Imin is the intensity peak and valley of the Talbot interference fringes without an object in the beam path, respectively.
  • For plane wave illumination (i.e. equivalent to the x-ray source being located at infinity) of a beam-splitting grating with a π phase-shift, the distance D is preferably given by:
  • D = D N = N p 1 2 8 λ = N 16 D T [ Eqn . 6 ]
  • where DN is the fractional Talbot distance for a plane wave illumination, λ is the mean x-ray wavelength, and N is referred to as a Talbot fractional order. The preferred value of D is dependent on the attenuating or phase shifting properties of the beam-splitting grating G1, the line-space ratio of the beam-splitting grating G1, and the source-to-grating distance L. For a π phase-shifting grating with a line-to-space ratio of 1:1, an odd integer fractional Talbot order N (N=1, 3, 5 . . . ) is preferred for determining the distance D. For an x-ray source located at a finite distance (e.g. L not infinity), D is increased to:
  • D = L × D N L - D N [ Eqn . 7 ]
  • The Talbot fringe period pf for a given fractional order is given by:
  • p f = Kp 1 L + D L [ Eqn . 8 ]
  • where K is a parameter dependent on the attenuating or phase shifting properties of the beam-splitting grating G1. K equals 0.5 when the beam-splitting grating is a π phase-shift grating, and equals 1 when the beam splitting grating is a π/2 phase shift grating.
  • Likewise, the Talbot fringe contrast is improved if a smaller x-ray sub-source size (i.e. more spatially coherent x-rays) is used, and in which the pitch p1 used for the beam splitting grating G1 is related to the size of the sub-source a and the distance L between them, satisfying the following requirement:
  • p 1 < λ L a [ Eqn . 9 ]
  • where λ is a predetermined x-ray wavelength that will generally correspond to the wavelength of the monochromatic x-rays produced by the corresponding sub-source, or the mean x-ray wavelength for an x-ray sub-source with a broader spectrum.
  • In the vacuum chamber 002, electrons 111 bombard the target, and generate heat and x-rays 888 in the microstructures 700. The material in the substrate 1000 is selected such that it has relatively low energy deposition rate for electrons in comparison to the microstructures of the x-ray generating material, typically by selecting a low Z material for the substrate, and therefore will not generate a significant amount of heat and x-rays. The substrate 1000 material may also be chosen to have a high thermal conductivity, typically larger than 100 W/(m ° C.). The microstructures of the x-ray generating material are also typically embedded within the substrate, i.e. if the microstructures are shaped as rectangular prisms, it is preferred that at least five of the six sides are in close thermal contact with the substrate 1000, so that heat generated in the microstructures 700 is effectively conducted away into the substrate 1000. However, targets used in other embodiments may have fewer direct contact surfaces. In general, when the term “embedded” is used in this disclosure, at least half of the surface area of the microstructure will be in close thermal contact with the substrate.
  • The microstructures are typically connected electrically with a lead 022 to the positive terminal of the high voltage source 010 to allow the target to serve as an anode in the electrical system. Alternatively, the target may be grounded while the cathode (electron emitter) is of negative charge, or the target may be connected to a positive terminal while the cathode is grounded, so long as the anode is of relative higher voltage than the cathode. Additionally, in some embodiments, electron optics such as electrostatic lenses or magnetic coils may be placed inside or outside of the vacuum chamber 002 around or near the path of electrons 111 to further direct and focus the electron beam.
  • The target 100 as illustrated may additionally serve as a window in the vacuum chamber 002 so that the x-ray generating material is facing the interior of the vacuum chamber and the electron source, but x-rays 888 are also propagate through the back side of the target 100 towards the beam-splitting grating G1 210. In other embodiments, a separate window is used, and additional x-ray filters may also be used
  • Once generated by the source 008, the x-rays 888 may pass through an optional shutter 230, an x-ray spectral filter to obtain a desired spectral bandwidth with a desired wavelength, and an object 240-M to be investigated. The x-rays then diffract off the beam splitting grating G1 210, which may additionally be mounted on a substrate 211, and then fall on the analyzer grating G2 220, which may also be mounted on a substrate 221. The final interference pattern will be detected by an array detector 290 that provides electrical signals corresponding to the x-ray intensity through a connector 291 to an image processing system 295 for analysis.
  • In addition to the x-ray source and interference detection system, means to move the object 240-M and the various gratings relative to each other, to the detector, and to the source may be used. In FIG. 10, the image processing system 295 may also be connected through a network 231 to a means 245 of controlling a stage 244 that sets the position and angle of the object 240-M, to a means 215 of controlling a mount 214 that sets the position and angle of the beam splitting grating G1 210, and to a means 225 of controlling a mount 224 that sets the position and angle of the analyzer grating G2 220, as well as a possible connection to the shutter 230 or to a switch 013 for the high voltage supply 010 to allow the x-rays to be moved and modulated (such as being turned on and off). Software run by processors in the image processing system 295 may control the motion of the gratings G1 210, G2 220, the object 240-M, and also the x-ray exposure to allow the collection of the multiple images needed to obtain detailed amplitude, differential phase, phase-contrast, and scattering contrast images of the object 240-M.
  • Additional embodiments may also include controls that allow the electron beam to be moved or modulated. For example, embodiments may be designed that additionally comprise a means of translating the x-ray source anode relative to the analyzer grating G2. Additional embodiments that also allow the position and angle of the x-ray detector 290 to be adjusted may also be designed.
  • FIG. 13 illustrates an embodiment of the invention in which the target 100 comprises a substrate 1000 and a plurality of microstructured line sources 701. These microstructured line sub-sources 701 will typically be a few microns wide in one direction (corresponding to the sub-source size parameter a, generally in the dimension orthogonal to the direction of the lines of the gratings G1 210 and G2 220, which corresponds to the y-direction in FIG. 13) but much longer (e.g. up to 1000 microns) in the direction parallel to the lines (which corresponds to the x-direction in FIG. 13). The pitch of the microstructures 701 as sub-sources as shown in FIG. 13 is p0, and is related to the pitch of the analyzer/detector by Equation 4.
  • FIG. 14 illustrates an embodiment of the invention in which the object 240-M to be examined is placed between the gratings G1 210 and the detector 290. The microstructures 700 of x-ray generating material on the target as illustrated in FIG. 14 comprise sub-sources arranged in a 2-D periodic array in two orthogonal directions, but may be any periodic array that satisfies the coherence illumination condition of the beam-splitting grating G1 210, including a grid, a mesh, a checkerboard, or other periodic structures.
  • If the gratings comprise one-dimensional structures, the microstructures 700 in the source target 100 need only be periodic in the same direction as the 1-D arrays of G1 210 and G2 220 (i.e. the lines of microstructures 701 are ideally parallel to the lines of the gratings) but can have arbitrary or non-periodic structure in the perpendicular direction.
  • FIG. 15 additionally illustrates an embodiment of the invention in which the there is no analyzer grating G2 220, but instead the detector 299 has a high resolution array GD with a pixel resolution equal to or better than one third (⅓) of the Talbot fringe period in the direction orthogonal to the grating lines. With this resolution, a single exposure image may be processed to obtain absorption, phase, and scattering contrast images simultaneously. This can be advantageous in that the intensity loss of 50% or more that typically occurs for x-rays passing through G2 220 is avoided, and the signal reaching the detector and therefore the signal-to-noise ratio is substantially higher.
  • In order to collect the multiple images for the calculation of detailed amplitude, differential phase, phase-contrast, and scattering contrast images for an object 240-M, the embodiment of FIG. 15 may additionally comprise a means 255 for translating the detector 290, not only in the two lateral directions parallel to the plane of the grating G1, but also in direction defined along the path of x-ray propagation, to ensure that the detector 299 is placed at the correct multiple of the Talbot distance TD.
  • FIG. 16 illustrates an embodiment of the invention in which the beam splitting grating G1 210-2D comprises a two-dimensional periodic array, which may be either a transmission or a phase grating. When using a 2-D beam-splitting grating of this type, the patterns may be arranged in any one of a number of periodic patterns, including a mesh, a checkerboard, a circular 2-D array, or other periodic arrays.
  • FIG. 16 illustrates the use of a 2-D beam splitting grating G1 210-2D in conjunction with a high-resolution detector 299, as was also shown in FIG. 15. To simultaneously obtain a differential phase contrast, phase contrast, absorption, scattering contrast images in two orthogonal directions, the geometric parameters, including the x-ray sub-source size a, the period p1 of the grating G1 210-2D and the distance L, need to satisfy the coherence illumination condition of the grating G1 in both directions. As before, the detector 299 has spatial resolution equal to or better than ⅓ of the Talbot fringe period in the two orthogonal directions in the image plane and is positioned to be aligned with the Talbot fringe pattern.
  • Such embodiments with 2-D patterns on the beam splitting grating G1 210-2D may also be used with the previously described lower resolution detector 290 in conjunction with a two-dimensional analyzer grating G2 which may be phase stepped in two directions in any sequence so that the phase information is obtained in both orthogonal directions. Similar to the description of G1 210-2D above, this 2-D analyzer grating G2 may be of any periodic structure such as a mesh, a checkerboard, or 2-D array of structures such as circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, etc.
  • FIG. 17 represents an embodiment similar to FIG. 16, except that the object 240-M under examination is now placed between the x-ray source and the beam-splitting grating 210-2D.
  • Note that some of the embodiments are one-dimensional Talbot-Yun interferometers in which absorption, phase, and scattering information is obtained in one direction and incorporate one or more 1-D gratings in combination with a micro structured source target that is periodic in at least in the direction perpendicular to the grating line direction (but may be periodic in other directions as well). Other embodiments are two-dimensional Talbot-ST interferometers in which absorption, phase, and scattering information is obtained in two orthogonal directions (or all three dimensions by performing computed tomography using the 2-D Talbot-Yun setup).
  • FIGS. 18 and 19 illustrate another embodiment of the invention in which the x-ray source 080 comprises a vacuum chamber 020 supported on mounts 030 within an x-ray shielding housing 050. The source 080 also comprises a target 100 comprising a substrate 1000 and a periodic pattern comprising x-ray sub-sources 700 mounted entirely within the vacuum chamber 020. As before, this embodiment also comprises a high voltage source 010, which has a negative terminal connected through a lead 021-A to an electron emitter 011-A, while the positive terminal is connected through one or more leads 022 to the microstructures in the target, allowing them to serve as an anode.
  • However, in this embodiment, the surface of the target 100 comprising the periodic array of x-ray sub-sources 700 comprising of x-ray generating material is facing a window 040 mounted in the wall of the vacuum chamber 020, and the electron emitter 011-A is aligned to emit a beam of electrons 111-A onto the surface of the target 100 comprising sub-sources 700 facing the window 040.
  • FIGS. 20 and 21 illustrate another embodiment of the invention in which the target 100 comprising a substrate 1000 and a periodic pattern comprising x-ray sub-sources 700 mounted entirely within the vacuum chamber 020. As before, this embodiment also comprises a high voltage source 010, which has a negative terminal connected through a lead 021-B to an electron emitter 011-B, while the positive terminal is connected through one or more leads 022 to the microstructures in the target, allowing them to serve as an anode.
  • However, in this embodiment, the surface of the target 100 comprising the periodic array of x-ray sub-sources 700 comprising x-ray generating material is oriented such that x-rays produced by some of the microstructures propagate towards other microstructures that are also producing x-rays, and a linear accumulation of x-rays 888-B from a plurality of microstructures 700 emerges from the target. The distance g between the microstructures and microstructures 700 emerges from the target. The distance g between the microstructures and the width wx in the propagation direction should be small enough such that the emission from the nth microstructure contributing to the accumulated x-rays can be considered as a single sub-source with dimension a of Eqn. 9, i.e.:

  • a≧tan θ·(n(g+w x))   [Eqn. 10]
  • where a is the sub-source dimension that meets the coherence requirements of the system, and θ is one half of the field-of-view angle for the system.
  • Linear accumulation of x-ray sources as used in this embodiment of the invention is described more fully in the co-pending U.S. Patent Application entitled X-RAY SOURCES USING LINEAR ACCUMULATION by the inventors of the present invention (U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/490,672 filed Sep. 19, 2014), which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. Any of the source designs and configurations disclosed in the above referenced co-pending Application may be considered for use as a component in any or all of the interferometric imaging systems disclosed herein.
  • Likewise, FIGS. 22 and 23 illustrate another embodiment of the invention that utilizes linear accumulation of x-rays. In this embodiment, the x-ray source 080 includes a target 2200 comprising a substrate 2210 and a first set of sub-sources 707 and a second set of sub-sources 708 mounted entirely within the vacuum chamber 020. As before, this embodiment also comprises a high voltage source 010, but this high voltage source is connected to a junction 010-2 that provides high voltage to two electron emitters 011-D and 011-E through a leads 021-D and 021-E, respectively. As shown in FIGS. 22 and 23, the first electron emitter 021-D provides an electron beam 111-D that bombards the first set of sub-sources 707, while the second electron emitter 021-E provides an electron beam 111-E that bombards the second set of sub-sources 708. Some of the x-rays 788 generated by the first set of sub-sources 707 and the second set of sub-sources 708 along the x-ray imaging beam axis combine to produce x-rays 2888 from the target 2200 will be augmented by the linear accumulation of x-rays from these two sets of x-ray sub-sources.
  • It will also be known to those skilled in the art that other embodiments of the invention comprising an x-ray source in which the target/anode under bombardment by electrons is moved, translated, or rotated to distribute the heat load are also possible.
  • Note: The illustrations of FIGS. 10 through 23 are not shown to scale, and are meant to illustrate the principle of the invention and not specific relationships between the microstructures 700, the target 100 and the various grating periods p1 and p2. The microstructures 700, 701, 707, 708 etc. may be on the order of microns in size, while the object under examination 240-M may be centimeters in size. Likewise, although these are illustrated in which an object with dimensions on the order of centimeters (a mouse) is shown, the techniques described are not limited to such objects, but may be used to examine even larger structures, or microscopic structures as well, as long as a suitable resolution for the detector and other elements of the interferometer are suitably constructed.
  • 2. Fabrication of X-ray Targets
  • Targets such as those to be used in x-ray sources according to the invention disclosed herein have been described in detail in the co-pending U.S. Patent Application entitled STRUCTURED TARGETS FOR X-RAY GENERATION by the inventors of the present invention (U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/465,816, filed Aug. 21, 2014), which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. Any of the target designs and configurations disclosed in the above referenced co-pending Application may be considered for use as a component in any or all of the x-ray sources disclosed herein.
  • As described herein and in the above cited pending Patent Applications, the target used in the source of x-rays may comprise a periodic array of sub-sources. Each sub-source may be comprised of a single or multiple microstructures of x-ray generating material in thermal contact with, or preferably embedded in, a substrate selected for its thermal conductivity. When the microstructures are in good thermal contact with a substrate having a high thermal conductivity, higher electron current densities may be used to generate x-rays, since the excess heat will be drawn away into the substrate. The higher current densities will give rise to higher x-ray flux, leading to a higher brightness source. As described in the above co-pending patent Applications, sources with microstructures of x-ray generating material may have a brightness more than 10 times larger than simpler constructions made from the same materials. Additional configurations in which multiple sub-sources are aligned to contribute x-rays on the same axis can multiply the brightness further through linear accumulation of the x-ray sub-sources.
  • It should also be noted here that, when the word “microstructure” is used herein, it is specifically referring to microstructures comprising x-ray generating material. Other structures, such as the cavities used to form the x-ray microstructures, have dimensions of the same order of magnitude, and might also be considered “microstructures”. As used herein, however, other words, such as “structures”, “cavities”, “holes”, “apertures”, etc. may be used for these structures when they are formed in materials, such as the substrate, that are not selected for their x-ray generating properties. The word “microstructure” will be reserved for structures comprising materials selected for their x-ray generating properties.
  • Likewise, it should be noted that, although the word “microstructure” is used, x-ray generating structures with dimensions smaller than 1 micron, or even as small as nano-scale dimensions (i.e. greater than 10 nm) may also be described by the word “microstructures” as used herein as long as the properties are consistent with the geometric factors for sub-source size and grating pitches set forth in the various embodiments.
  • It should also be noted that here that, when the word “sub-source” is used it may refer to a single microstructure of x-ray generating material, or an ensemble of smaller microstructures that function similarly to a single structure for the purposes of Talbot interferometry.
  • The fabrication of these microstructured targets may follow well known processing steps used for the creation of embedded structures in substrates. If the substrate is a material with high thermal conductivity such as diamond, conventional lithographic patterning using photoresists can produce micron sized structures, which may then be etched into the substrate using processes such as reactive ion etching (RIE). Deposition of the x-ray generating material into the etched structures formed in the substrate may then be carried out using standard deposition processes, such as electroplating, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), or atomic layer deposition.
  • The x-ray generating material used in the target should ideally have good thermal properties, such as a high melting point and high thermal conductivity, in order to allow higher electron power loading on the source to increase x-ray production. The x-ray generating material should additionally be selected for good x-ray production properties, which includes x-ray production efficiency (proportional to its atomic number) and in some cases, it may be desirable to produce a specific spectra of interest, such as a characteristic x-ray spectral line. For these reasons, targets are often fabricated using tungsten, with an atomic number Z=74.
  • Table I lists several materials that are commonly used for x-ray targets, several additional potential target materials (notably useful for specific characteristic lines of interest), and some materials that may be used as substrates for target materials. Melting points, and thermal and electrical conductivities are presented for values near 300° K (27° C.). Most values are cited from the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 90th ed. [CRC Press, Boca Raton, Fla., 2009]. Other values are cited from various sources found on the Internet. Note that, for some materials, such as sapphire for example, thermal conductivities an order of magnitude larger may be possible when cooled to temperatures below that of liquid nitrogen (77° K) [see, for example, Section 2.1.5, Thermal Properties, of E. R. Dobrovinskaya et al., Sapphire: Material, Manufacturing, Applications, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 2009]
  • FIG. 24 illustrates a target as may be used in some embodiments of the invention. In this figure, a substrate 1000 has a region 1001 that comprises an array of sub-sources 700 comprising microstructures of x-ray generating material (typically a metallic material), in which the sub-sources are arranged in a regular array of right rectangular prisms. In a vacuum, electrons 111 bombard the target from above, and generate heat and x-rays in the microstructures 700. The material in the substrate 1000 is selected such that it has relatively low x-ray production (efficiency is proportional to atomic number) and energy deposition rate (stopping power is proportional to density) for electrons in comparison to the x-ray generating microstructure material, and therefore will not generate a significant amount of heat and x-rays. This is typically achieved by selecting a low mass density and low atomic number (Z) material for the substrate.
  • The substrate 1000 material may also be chosen to have a high thermal conductivity, typically larger than 100 W/(m ° C.), and the microstructures are typically embedded within the substrate, i.e. if the microstructures are shaped as rectangular prisms, it is preferred that at least five of the six sides are in close thermal contact with the substrate 1000, so that heat generated in the microstructures 700 is effectively conducted away into the substrate 1000. However, targets used in other embodiments may have fewer direct contact surfaces. In general, when the term “embedded” is used in this disclosure, at least
  • TABLE I Various Target and Substrate Materials and Selected Properties. Atomic Melting Thermal Electrical Material Number Point ° C. Conductivity Conductivity (Elemental Symbol) Z (1 atm) (W/(m ° C.)) (MS/m) Common Target Materials: Chromium (Cr) 24 1907 93.7  7.9 Iron (Fe) 26 1538 80.2 10.0 Cobalt (Co) 27 1495 100 17.9 Copper (Cu) 29 1085 401 58.0 Molybdenum (Mo) 42 2623 138 18.1 Silver (Ag) 47 962 429 61.4 Tungsten (W) 74 3422 174 18.4 Other Possible Target Materials: Titanium (Ti) 22 1668 21.9  2.6 Gallium (Ga) 35 30 40.6  7.4 Rhodium (Rh) 45 1964 150 23.3 Indium (In) 49 157 81.6 12.5 Cesium (Cs) 55 28 35.9  4.8 Rhenium (Re) 75 3185 47.9  5.8 Gold (Au) 79 1064 317 44.0 Lead (Pb) 82 327 35.3  4.7 Other Potential Substrate Materials with low atomic number: Beryllium (Be) 4 1287 200 26.6 Carbon (C): 6 * 2300  10−19 Diamond Carbon (C): 6 * 1950  0.25 Graphite || Carbon (C): 6 * 3180 100.0  Nanotube (SWNT) Carbon (C): 6 * 200 Nanotube (bulk) Boron Nitride (BN) B = 5 ** 20  10−17 N = 7 Silicon (Si) 14 1414 124 1.56 × 10−9 Silicon Carbide Si = 14 2798 0.49 10−9 (β-SiC) C = 6 Sapphire Al = 13 2053 32.5  10−20 (Al2O3) || C O = 8 * Carbon does not melt at 1 atm; it sublimes at ~3600° C. ** BN does not melt at 1 atm; it sublimes at ~2973° C.

    half of the surface area of the microstructure will be in close thermal contact with the substrate.
  • Note that the sub-source sizes and dimensions in some embodiments may be constrained by the same limitations as the periodicity p0 of the grating G0 in prior art. In other words, the spatial resolution achievable at the object position in the x-ray interferometric imaging systems as shown in FIGS. 9 through 23 is determined by the overall x-ray source size and the detector resolution, similar to the conditions described in the prior art interferometeric imaging systems, such as the Talbot-Lau system. Therefore, the maximum x-ray source size (width of each microstructure spot) is limited for a given detector resolution and a given imaging geometry as determined by the distance between the source and object and the distance between the object to the detector.
  • The line-to-space ratio of the arrays of sub-sources is a design parameter that should be considered in the design of any system. A large spatial coherence length is inversely proportional to the size of an x-ray source or sub-source. Because the fringe visibility of the Talbot interference fringes increases linearly with the relative ratio of the spatial coherence length of the illuminating x-ray beam to the period of the beam-splitting grating p1 for a value of the ratio from 0.3 to 1, it is generally preferred to have a small source size. However, the x-ray production is inversely proportional to the area of the sub-source (e.g. a reduction in line width will lead to a decrease of x-ray production). Since the throughput of an imaging system is generally proportional to square of the contrast transfer function and only proportional to the x-ray flux, it is generally preferred to have a line-to-space ration less than 1:1. Some embodiments of the invention may use a line-to-space (i.e. x-ray generating material to substrate material) ratio between 1:5 and 1:2 (i.e. the relative area of the x-ray generating material may range from 20% to 33%).
  • A figure of merit (FOM) that may be helpful for the selection of materials for targets according to this invention is the ratio of x-rays produced by the microstructures to the x-rays produced by the electrons also bombarding the substrate. This figure of merit may be useful for the design of and selection of materials for the targets for the system, and should be taken into consideration in addition to the thermal conductivity of the substrate. As the electron energy deposition rate is proportional to the mass density and the x-ray production efficiency in a material is proportional to its atomic number, this figure of merit may be defined as follows:
  • FOM = Z 2 × ρ 2 Z 1 × ρ 1 [ Eqn . 11 ]
  • where Z is the atomic number and p is the density, and material 1 is the substrate and material 2 is the x-ray generating material.
  • A number of microstructures and substrate material combinations are listed below in Table II. Any of the following combinations may be used, but it is preferable that the materials are selected such that the FOM is greater than 12, and that the thermal conductivity of the substrate material is greater than 100 W/(m ° C.) at room temperature.
  • TABLE II Figure of Merit for x-ray material/substrate combinations. Figure Substrate material Microstructure material of Merit     Material   Atomic # Z1 Mass density (g/cm3)     Material   Atomic # Z2 Mass density (g/cm3) Z 2 × ρ 2 Z 1 × ρ 1 SiC 12.55 3.21 Cu 29 8.96 6 Si 14 2.33 Cu 29 8.96 8 SiC 12.55 3.21 Mo 42 10.2 11 Diamond 6 3.5 Cu 29 8.96 12 Si 14 2.33 Mo 42 10.2 13 Diamond 6 3.5 Mo 42 10.2 21 SiC 12.55 3.21 W 74 19.25 35 Be 4 1.85 Cu 29 8.96 35 Si 14 2.33 W 74 19.25 44 Be 4 1.85 Mo 42 10.2 59 Diamond 6 3.5 W 74 19.25 68 Be 4 1.85 W 74 19.25 193
  • FIG. 25 illustrates another target as may be used in some embodiments of the invention in which the electron beam 111-F is directed by electrostatic lenses to form a more concentrated, focused spot. For this situation, the target 1100-F will still comprise a region 1001-F comprising an array of microstructures 700-F comprising x-ray material, but the size and dimensions of this region 1001-F can be matched to regions where electron exposure will occur. In these targets, the “tuning” of the source geometry and the x-ray generating material can be controlled such that the designs mostly limit the amount of heat generated to the micro structured region 1001-F, while also reducing the design and manufacturing complexity. This may be especially useful when used with electron beams focused to form a micro-spot, or by more intricate systems that form a more complex electron exposure pattern.
  • The depth of penetration of electrons into the material can be estimated by Pott's Law [P. J. Potts, Electron Probe Microanalysis, Ch. 10 of A Handbook of Silicate Rock Analysis, Springer Netherlands, 1987, p. 336)], which states that the penetration depth x in microns is related to the 10% of the value of the electron energy E0 in keV raised to the 3/2 power, divided by the density of the material:
  • x ( μ m ) = 0.1 × E 0 1.5 ρ [ Eqn . 12 ]
  • For less dense material, such as a diamond substrate, the penetration depth is much larger than for a material with greater density, such as most materials containing elements used for x-ray generation.
  • Using this formula, Table III illustrates some of the estimated penetration depths for some common x-ray target materials.
  • TABLE III Estimates of penetration depth for 60 keV electrons into some materials. Density Penetration Depth Material Z (g/cm3) (μm) Diamond 6 3.5 13.28 Copper 29 8.96 5.19 Molybdenum 42 10.28 4.52 Tungsten 74 19.25 2.41
  • The majority of characteristic Cu K x-rays are generated within the penetration depth. The electron interactions below that depth typically generate few characteristic K-line x-rays but will contribute to the heat generation, thus resulting in a low thermal gradient along the depth direction. It is therefore preferable in some embodiments to set a maximum thickness for the microstructures in the target in order to limit electron interaction in the material and optimize local thermal gradients. One embodiment of the invention limits the depth of the micro structured x-ray generating material in the target to between one third and two thirds of the electron penetration depth in the substrate at the incident electron energy. In this case, the lower mass density of the substrate leads to a lower energy deposition rate in the substrate material immediately below the x-ray generating material, which in turn leads to a lower temperature in the substrate material below. This results in a higher thermal gradient between the x-ray generating material and the substrate, enhancing heat transfer. The thermal gradient is further enhanced by the high thermal conductivity of the substrate material.
  • For similar reasons, selecting the thickness of the microstructures to be less than one half of the electron penetration depth in the substrate is also generally preferred for efficient generation of bremsstrahlung radiation, because the electrons below that depth have lower energy and thus lower x-ray production efficiency.
  • Note: Other choices for the dimensions of the x-ray generating material may also be used. In targets as used in some embodiments of the invention, the depth of the x-ray material may be selected to be 50% of the electron penetration depth in the substrate. In other embodiments, the depth of the x-ray material may be selected to be 33% of the electron penetration depth in the substrate. In other embodiments, the depth for the microstructures may be selected related to the “continuous slowing down approximation” (CSDA) range for electrons in the material. Other depths may be specified depending on the x-ray spectrum desired and the properties of the selected x-ray material.
  • FIG. 26 illustrates a region 1001 of a target as may be used in some embodiments of the invention that comprises an array of sub-sources 700 with microstructures in the form of right rectangular prisms comprising x-ray generating material arranged in a regular array. FIG. 26A presents a perspective view of the sixteen microstructures 700 for this target, while FIG. 26B illustrates a top down view of the same region, and FIG. 26C presents a side/cross-section view of the same region. (For the term “side/cross-section view” in this disclosure, the view meant is one as if a cross-section of the object had been made, and then viewed from the side towards the cross-sectioned surface. This shows both detail at the point of the cross-section as well as material deeper inside that might be seen from the side, assuming the substrate itself were transparent [which, in the case of diamond, is generally true for visible light].)
  • In these targets, the microstructures have been fabricated such that they are in close thermal contact on five of six sides with the substrate. As illustrated, the top of the microstructures 700 are flush with the surface of the substrate, but other targets in which the microstructure is recessed may be fabricated, and still other targets in which the microstructures present a topographical “bump” relative to the surface of the substrate may also be fabricated.
  • An alternative target as may be used in some embodiments of the invention may have several microstructures of right rectangular prisms simply deposited upon the surface of the substrate. In this case, only the bottom base of the prism would be in thermal contact with the substrate. For a structure comprising the microstructures embedded in the substrate with a side/cross-section view as shown in FIG. 26C with depth Dz and lateral dimensions in the plane of the substrate of Wx and Wy, the ratio of the total surface area in contact with the substrate for the embedded microstructures vs. deposited microstructures is
  • A Embedded A Deposited = 1 + 2 D ( W + L ) ( W × L ) [ Eqn . 13 ]
  • With a small value for D relative to W and L, the ratio is essentially 1. For larger thicknesses, the ratio becomes larger, and for a cube (D=W=L) in which 5 equal sides are in thermal contact, the ratio is 5. If a cap layer of a material with similar properties as the substrate in terms of mass density and thermal conductivity is used, the ratio may be increased to 6.
  • FIG. 27 illustrates a region 1001 of a target as may be used in some embodiments of the invention, such as that previously illustrated in FIG. 13, that comprises an array of linear sub-sources 701 with microstructures in the form of right rectangular prisms comprising x-ray generating material arranged in a regular array. FIG. 27A presents a perspective view of the three microstructures 701 for this target, while FIG. 27B illustrates a top down view of the same region, and FIG. 27C presents a side/cross-section view of the same region.
  • In this embodiment, the lateral dimensions in the plane of the substrate are a width and length Wx and Ly. The effective sub-source size a will correspond to the width Wx.
  • FIGS. 28 and 29 illustrate a practical issue that may arise in forming the targets such as those illustrated in FIGS. 26 and 27. FIG. 28 illustrates variations possible with the grid of x-ray generating microstructures 700 as illustrated in FIG. 26, and FIG. 29 illustrates variations possible with the linear x-ray generating microstructures 701 as illustrated in FIG. 27.
  • In FIG. 28, odd-shaped microstructures 700-A of other geometric shapes may be formed. Likewise, voids 700-O may also appear where certain structures may be expected. Other deposition processes, for example deposition using pre-formed particles of x-ray generating material may create ensemble clusters of particles 700-C that, when bombarded with electrons, may still act as x-ray sub-sources similar in function to those that are produced by a uniform structure. Also shown in FIG. 28 is a microstructure with multiple crystal structures and grain boundaries 700-G that again may still produce x-rays similar to those that are produced by a uniform structure, but may be considered to comprise an ensemble of microstructures.
  • The effective x-ray sub-source size in all of these situations may be approximated using the size parameter a, even though the microstructures comprise particles that are considerable smaller.
  • In FIG. 29 shows examples of ensemble microstructures as may occur when fabricating linear microstructures 701. If uniform pre-fabricated particles of x-ray generating material are created and coated onto the substrate, an ensemble of particles 703 of x-ray generating material may be formed. In other processes, if non-uniform particles are used, clusters of particles 704-A and 704-B may form, in some cases with a non-uniform distribution that may include gaps of voids. In other processes, an ensemble of particles 704 of x-ray generating material may approximate a line source of x-rays.
  • All of these ensembles, when bombarded with electrons, may still act as x-ray sub-sources similar in function to those that are produced by a uniform linear structure. The effective source size in these situations may be approximated using the size parameter a, even though the microstructures comprise particles that are considerable smaller.
  • The heat transfer that may occur under electron bombardment is illustrated with representative arrows in FIG. 30, in which the heat generated in sub-sources 700 embedded in a substrate 1000 is conducted out of the microstructures comprising the sub-sources 700 through the bottom and sides (arrows for transfer through the sides out of the plane of the drawing are not shown). The amount of heat transferred per unit time (ΔQ) conducted through a material of area A and thickness d given by:
  • Δ Q = κ · A · Δ T d [ Eqn . 14 ]
  • where κ is the thermal conductivity in W/(m ° C.) and ΔT is the temperature difference across thickness d in ° C. Therefore, an increase in surface area A, a decrease in thickness d and an increase in ΔT all lead to a proportional increase in heat transfer.
  • An alternative embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 31, in which the substrate additionally comprises a cooling channel 1200. Such cooling channels may be a prior art cooling channel, as discussed above, using water or some other cooling fluid to conduct heat away from the substrate, or may be fabricated according to a design adapted to best remove heat from the regions near the embedded microstructures 700.
  • Other target structures for various embodiments may be understood or devised by those skilled in the art, in which the substrate may, for example, be bonded to a heat sink, such as a copper block, for improved thermal transfer. The copper block may in turn have cooling channels within it to assist in carrying heat away from the block. Alternatively, the substrate may be attached to a thermoelectric cooler, in which a voltage is applied to a specially constructed semiconductor device. In these devices, the flow of current causes one side to cool while the other heats up. Commercially available devices, such as Peltier coolers, can produce a temperature difference of up to 70° C. across the device, but may be limited in their overall capacity to remove large amounts of heat from a heat source. Heat pipes containing a heat transfer fluid that evaporates and condenses, as are used for cooling CPU chips in server farms when compact design is a consideration, may also be used to cool the substrate.
  • Alternatively, the substrate can be attached to a cryogenic cooler, such as a block containing channels for the flow of liquid nitrogen, or be in thermal contact with a reservoir of liquid nitrogen or some other cryogenic substance, such as an antifreeze solution, to provide more extreme cooling. When the substrate comprises a material such as diamond, sapphire, silicon, or silicon carbide, thermal conductivity generally increases with decreasing temperature from room temperature. In such a case, designing the target so that it can withstand cooling to these lower temperatures may be preferred.
  • FIG. 32 illustrates an alternative example of a target that may be used in embodiments of the invention in which the cavities formed in the substrate 1000 are first coated with an adhesion layer 715 (preferably of minimal thickness) before embedding the x-ray generating material that forms the microstructures 700. Such an adhesion layer may be appropriate in cases where the bond between the x-ray material and the substrate material is weak. The adhesion layer may also act as a buffer layer when the difference between thermal expansion coefficients for the two materials is large. For some choices of materials, the adhesion layer may be replaced or extended (by adding another layer) with a diffusion barrier layer to prevent the diffusion of material from the microstructures into the substrate material (or vice versa). For embodiments in which an adhesion and/or diffusion barrier layer is used, the selection of materials and thicknesses should consider the thermal properties of the layer as well, such that heat flow from the microstructures 700 to the substrate 1000 is not significantly impeded or insulated by the presence of the adhesion layer 715.
  • FIG. 33 illustrates an alternative example of a target that may be used in embodiment in which an electrically conducting layer 725 has been added to the surface of the target. When bombarded by electrons, the excess charge needs a path to return to ground for the target to function effectively as an anode. If the target as illustrated in FIG. 26 were to comprise only discrete, unconnected microstructures 700 within an electrically insulating substrate material (such as undoped diamond), under continued electron bombardment, significant charge would build up on the surface. The electrons from the cathode would then not collide with the target with the same energy, or might even be repelled, diminishing the generation of x-rays.
  • This can be addressed by the deposition of a thin layer of conducting material that is preferably of relatively low atomic number, such as aluminum (Al), beryllium (Be), carbon (C), chromium (Cr) or titanium (Ti), that allows electrical conduction from the discrete microstructures 700 to an electrical path 722 that connects to a positive terminal relative to the high voltage supply. This terminal as a practical matter is typically the electrical ground of the system, while the cathode electron source is supplied with a negative high voltage.
  • FIG. 34 illustrates another example of a target that may be used in embodiment of the invention, in which the sub-sources 702 are embedded deeper, or buried, into the substrate 1000. Such an embedded microstructure may be further covered by the deposition of an additional layer 1010, which may be, for example, diamond, providing the same heat transfer properties as the substrate. This allows heat to be conducted away from all sides of the buried sub-source 702. For such a situation and when the additional layer 1010 does not have sufficient electrical conductivity, it is advisable to provide a path 722 to ground for the electrons incident on the structure, which may be in the form of a embedded conducting layer 726 laid down before the deposition of the additional layer 1010. In some embodiments, this conducting layer 726 will have a “via” 727, or a vertical connection, often in the form of a pillar or cylinder, that provides an electrically conducting structure to link the embedded conducting layer 726 to an additional conducting layer 728 on the surface of the target, which in turn is connected to the path 722 to ground, or the high voltage supply.
  • FIG. 35 illustrates another example of a target that may be used in embodiments of the invention, in which the sub-sources 702 are again buried within the substrate. However, in this embodiment, instead of first providing an electrically conducting layer followed by the deposition of an additional cap layer, in this embodiment only a single layer 770 is deposited, selected for a combination of electrical properties and thermally conducting properties. This may be, for example, a deposition of carbon nanotubes (Z=6) oriented vertically relative to the surface, such that they conduct both heat and electrons away from the buried microstructures 702. This single layer 770 may in turn be connected to a path 722 to ground to allow the target to serve as an anode in the x-ray generation system. Alternatively, the material of the layer 770 may be selected to comprise aluminum (Al), beryllium (Be), chromium (Cr), or copper (Cu).
  • FIG. 36 illustrates another variation of an embodiment, in which an additional patterns of blocking material 729 have been deposited on the backside of the target substrate 1000. If the figure of merit for the selected material combination, as discussed above in Table II, is not large, there may still be significant x-rays generated by the substrate that will reduce contrast in the image. These substrate-generated x-rays can be blocked by a deposition of a suitable material, such as gold, as blocking structures 729. Gold (Z=79) has a strong x-ray absorption, as illustrated in FIG. 37. Processes to deposit these blocking structures may comprise standard deposition processes, and an alignment step may be needed to ensure alignment with the x-ray generating structures on the opposite side.
  • It should be clear to those skilled in the art that although several embodiments have been presented separately in FIGS. 24-36, and various processes for their manufacture will be presented later, the elements of these embodiments may be combined with each other, or combined with other commonly known target fabrication methods known in the art. For example, the buried sub-sources 702 of FIG. 35 may also comprise multiple grains of microstructures, as was illustrated in FIGS. 28 and 29. Likewise, the adhesion layer 715 as illustrated in FIG. 32 may also be applied to fabrication of embedded sub-sources 700 as shown in FIG. 33. The separation of these alternatives is for illustration only, and is not meant to be limiting for any particular process.
  • Although the sub-sources illustrated in FIGS. 24-36 have been shown as regularly spaced patterns with uniform size and shape, a regular pattern of sub-sources having non-uniform size and shape, can also be used in some embodiments of the invention. Additionally, each sub-source within a regular periodic pattern may further be comprised of multiple smaller microstructures of non-uniform sizes and shapes. These smaller microstructures may be non-regular and do not necessarily need to have similar x-ray emission characteristics or strength, so as long as the larger sub-sources that each group of microstructures comprise are periodic in nature.
  • Likewise, although some embodiments have been described with microstructures in, for example, the shape of right rectangular prisms, fabrication processes may create structures that have walls at angles other than 90°, or do not have corners that are exactly right angles, but may be rounded or beveled or undercut, depending on the artifacts of the specific process used. Embodiments in which the microstructures are essentially similar with the shapes described herein will be understood by those skilled in the art to be disclosed, even if process artifacts lead to some deviation from the shapes as illustrated or described.
  • In other embodiments of the system, a periodic attenuating grating G0 such as are used in the prior art Talbot-Lau interferometers may also be used in conjunction with the source of the invention, so that the x-rays produced by the substrate material surrounding the sub-sources are further attenuated, allowing greater monochromaticity and therefore higher spatial coherence for the source. The apertures of the grating should be coincident with projections of the microstructured x-ray sub-sources, or may, in some embodiments, be placed at a Talbot fractional or integer distance downstream of the source and with the apertures coincident with the source self-images. It is preferable that the grating G0 is of high atomic number and relatively low aspect ratio, for ease of manufacturability.
  • 3. Fabrication of Gratings
  • Fabrication of the gratings used in embodiments of the invention may be made using known prior art fabrication processes such as those previously described by Christian David [C. David et al., “Fabrication of diffraction gratings for hard x-ray phase contrast imaging”, Microelectron. Eng. 84, 1172-1177, 2007].
  • Gratings for x-rays may be fabricated using silicon substrates, with etched changes in topography to induce phase changes and depositions of a higher Z material, such as gold (Au, Z=79), to induce absorption changes. The x-ray absorption properties for gold and silicon are illustrated in FIG. 37.
  • As shown in FIG. 38, a periodic pattern 3010 may be etched into a silicon substrate 3000 to create a structure which introduces a periodic phase shift for x-rays falling at normal incidence. The phase shift depends on the etch depth, with a phase-shift of π radians for normal incidence x-rays achieved when the following condition is met:
  • d etch = 1 2 λ n - 1 = 1 2 λ δ [ Eqn . 15 ]
  • Values for δ for silicon at several x-ray energies, along with the depth etched structures need to a phase-shift of π radians are shown in Table IV.
  • TABLE IV Etch depth for Silicon phase shift of π radians. X-ray Wavelength π phase shift Energy (keV) λ (nm) δ depth (μm)  3.0 0.413 5.43E−05 3.81  5.0 0.248 1.98E−05 6.26 8.048 (Cu Kα) 0.154 7.58E−06 10.17 10.0 0.124 4.89E−06 12.69 17.48 (Mo Kα) 0.0709 1.59E−06 22.36 30.0 0.0413 5.36E−07 38.52 50.0 0.0248 1.93E−07 64.31 59.39 (W Kα) 0.0209 1.37E−07 76.32 100.0  0.0124 4.82E−08 128.74
  • A typical grating fabrication process comprises coating a <110> oriented silicon wafer with a photoresist, and patterning the resist using conventional photolithography or electron beam lithography. The silicon then undergoes an etching process such as wet etching in, for example, a potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution, or reactive ion etching (RIE), with the etching selectively occurring only for portions of the silicon not masked by the resist. The etch depth may be controlled by adjusting the time of the etch process. Other variations of the etching process will be known those skilled in the art of semiconductor processing and manufacturing.
  • Absorption gratings such as those used for G2 may be fabricated by initially crating a silicon phase grating, as described above, and then depositing an x-ray absorbing material, such as gold, into the grooves already patterned in the silicon. This is illustrated in FIG. 39, in which an amount of x-ray absorbing material 3030 such as gold has filled the grooves created in a silicon substrate 3000. One process for the deposition of gold into the silicon grooves involves a standard electroplating processes. To ensure that gold is only deposited into the grooves, a sacrificial layer of aluminum may initially deposited at an angle, and a seed layer ˜50 nm thick comprising Chromium (Cr) and gold (Au) are then deposited. A phosphoric acid treatment removes the all the material deposited on the tops of the silicon structures, leaving seed material only in the bottom of the grooves in the silicon. Standard electroplating may follow, with growth of gold occurring only onto the deposited seed layers. Deposition of 10 to 20 mm of gold can create absorption gratings with a transmission modulation of 75% or more. Absorption will, however, depend on the x-ray energy and the absorption coefficient for the material, as was illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 37. Other methods for making x-ray absorption gratings will be known to those skilled in the art.
  • For some applications and for certain x-ray wavelengths, crystal gratings may also be used.
  • 4.0 Detector Properties
  • The detector may be any one of a number of detectors used to form x-ray images. One type of commonly used x-ray detector comprises a fluorescent screen or scintillator, such as one comprising a layer of cesium iodide (CsI), thallium doped CsI, yttrium aluminium garnet (YAG) or gadolinium sulfoxylate (GOS), that emits visible photons when exposed to x-rays. The visible photons are then detected by an electronic sensor that converts visible intensity into electronic signals, often with the additional formation of a relay image using visible optics that enlarge and magnify the intensity pattern of the photons emitted by the fluorescent screen. With the relay optics, the electronic detector need not comprise a high resolution sensor itself, and inexpensive commercial CCD detectors or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor arrays with, for example, 1024×1024 pixels, each 24 μm×24 μm square, may be used.
  • Commercial flat panel digital x-ray sensors in which a layer of scintillator material is placed in close proximity to (or even coated onto) an array of conventional optical image sensors are manufactured by, for example, Varian Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif. and General Electric, Inc. of Billerica, Mass. Other configurations of image sensors may be known to those skilled in the art. In embodiments in which a G2 analyzer grating is used, it is preferable to use highly efficient, fast read-out detectors such as flat panel detectors, used for medical and industrial uses. For many applications, a flat panel detector with a resolution larger than 20 microns will require that an analyzer grating G2 with a period equal to the Talbot fringe period to be placed in the x-ray beam path before the detector.
  • A second approach is to use an electronic sensor that directly creates an electrical signal in response to the absorption of x-rays, by, for example, the creation of direct electron-hole pairs in amorphous selenium (a-Se). These are then converted into electronic signals using an array of thin-film transistors (TFTs). Such direct flat panel detectors (FPDs) such as the Safire FPD of Shimadzu Corp. of Kyoto, Japan, are commercially available.
  • 5.0 Variations
  • Embodiments may further comprise other components typically included in Talbot interferometer, including spectral filters to obtain a desired x-ray energy bandwidth and positioning control systems for all the various components of the system.
  • With this application, several embodiments of the invention, including the best mode contemplated by the inventors, have been disclosed. It will be recognized that, while specific embodiments may be presented, elements discussed in detail only for some embodiments may also be applied to others.
  • While specific materials, designs, configurations and fabrication steps have been set forth to describe this invention and the preferred embodiments, such descriptions are not intended to be limiting. Modifications and changes may be apparent to those skilled in the art, and it is intended that this invention be limited only by the scope of the appended claims.

Claims (32)

We claim:
1. An x-ray interferometric imaging system comprising:
a source of x-rays comprising:
a vacuum chamber;
an emitter for an electron beam; and
an electron target comprising:
a substrate comprising a first material and, embedded in the substrate,
at least a plurality of discrete structures comprising a second material selected for its x-ray generating properties,
and in which said plurality of discrete structures are arranged within a periodic pattern of sub-sources;
a beam-splitting x-ray grating positioned to diffract x-rays generated by the sub-sources of x-rays; and
an x-ray detector comprising a two-dimensional array of x-ray detecting elements, positioned to detect the x-rays diffracted by the beam-splitting grating.
2. The x-ray interferometer imaging system of claim 1, in which the ratio (Z2 ρ2)/(Z1 ρ1) for the second material and first material is greater than 12, where Z is the atomic number and ρ is the mass density.
3. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the first selected material is selected from the group consisting of: beryllium, diamond, graphite, silicon, boron nitride, silicon carbide, sapphire and diamond-like carbon.
4. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the second material is selected from the group consisting of: iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, gallium, zinc, yttrium, zirconium, molybdenum, niobium, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, tin, iridium, tantalum, tungsten, indium, cesium, barium, gold, platinum, lead and combinations and alloys thereof.
5. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the plurality of discrete structures have similar shapes.
6. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 5, in which the similar shapes are selected from the group consisting of regular prisms, right rectangular prisms, cubes, triangular prisms, trapezoidal prisms, pyramids, tetrahedra, cylinders, spheres, ovoids, and barrel-shapes.
7. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the periodic pattern for the plurality of discrete structures is a regular grid; and in which, for one or more of the discrete structures, the width in one dimension is less than 10 microns.
8. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the periodic pattern for the plurality of discrete structures is a set of parallel lines; and in which, for one or more of the discrete structures, the width in one dimension is less than 10 microns, and the length in a perpendicular dimension is greater than 20 microns.
9. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the target also serves as a window for the vacuum chamber.
10. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the beam-splitting x-ray grating comprises periodic structures that form an x-ray phase-shifting grating.
11. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 10, in which the x-ray phase shifting grating comprises structures to introduce a phase-shift of approximately π radians for a predetermined x-ray wavelength.
12. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 10, in which the x-ray phase shifting grating comprises structures to introduce a phase-shift of approximately π/2 radians for a predetermined x-ray wavelength.
13. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 10, in which the beam-splitting x-ray phase-shifting grating comprises a one-dimensional x-ray phase-shifting grating, in which the period p1 of the one-dimensional x-ray phase-shifting grating is related to a dimension a for at least one of the discrete structures of the x-ray target by:
p 1 < λ L a
where λ is a predetermined x-ray wavelength, and L is the distance between the target and the beam-splitting x-ray grating.
14. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 13, in which the periodic pattern for the plurality of discrete structures is a set of parallel lines in which the dimension a corresponds to the width of one of more of the discrete structures and is less than 10 microns; and the set of parallel lines has an orientation parallel with the structures of said one-dimensional x-ray phase-shifting grating.
15. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 14, in which the period p0 of the periodic pattern is greater than 2a.
16. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 15, in which the period p0 of the periodic pattern is approximately 4a.
17. The x-ray interferometer imaging system of claim 10, in which the x-ray detector is positioned at a distance from the beam-splitting x-ray grating that corresponds to an odd multiple of 1/16th of the Talbot Distance for that grating when used with spherical wave x-rays of a predetermined wavelength spectrum and spatial coherence; and in which the detector has a spatial resolution at least three times the Talbot fringe period for the Talbot interference pattern at said odd multiple of 1/16th of the Talbot Distance for that grating when used with x-rays of said predetermined wavelength spectrum and spatial coherence.
18. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the x-ray detector comprises a scintillator, and also an array of charged-coupled devices (CCDs).
19. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the x-ray detector comprises electronic elements comprising selenium.
20. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, additionally comprising: an analyzer grating placed in close proximity to the surface of the x-ray detector.
21. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 20, in which the analyzer grating comprises periodic structures that form an x-ray absorption grating.
22. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 21, in which periodic structures of the analyzer grating have a period p2 given approximately by:
p 2 = p 0 D L
where p0 is the period of the periodic pattern for the sub-sources of the target, D is the distance between the x-ray beam-splitting grating and the analyzer grating, and L is the distance between the target and the beam-splitting x-ray grating.
23. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 22, in which the periodic pattern for the plurality of discrete structures in the target is a set of parallel lines; and
the beam-splitting x-ray grating comprises
a one-dimensional x-ray phase-shifting grating having an orientation parallel with the set of parallel lines; and
the analyzer grating comprises
a one-dimensional absorption grating structure having an orientation parallel with the set of parallel lines.
24. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, in which the orientation of at least two of the discrete structures of the target are such that, when simultaneously bombarded by electrons from the electron emitter, the x-rays generated by one of the discrete structures overlap in part the x-rays generated by the another of the discrete structures, and the overlapping x-rays will propagate together towards the beam-splitting x-ray grating.
25. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 1, additionally comprising:
a cooling system comprising:
a reservoir for storing a cooling fluid;
a channel within the substrate for conducting the cooling fluid;
an additional channel to conduct the fluid from the reservoir to the channel within the substrate;
an additional channel to conduct the fluid from the channel within the substrate to the reservoir; and
a pumping mechanism to pump the fluid through the system.
26. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 10, in which the x-ray phase-shifting grating comprises two-dimensional structures that introduce a phase-shift of approximately π radians for a predetermined x-ray wavelength.
27. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 26, in which the two-dimensional structures are arranged in a checkerboard pattern.
28. An x-ray interferometric imaging system comprising:
a source of x-rays comprising:
a vacuum chamber;
at least two emitters for electron beams; and
an electron target comprising:
a substrate comprising a first material and, embedded in the substrate,
at least a one set of a plurality of discrete structures comprising a second material selected for its x-ray generating properties, and
at least another set of a plurality of discrete structures comprising a third material selected for its x-ray generating properties,
and in which both of said sets of a plurality of discrete structures are arranged in a periodic pattern;
a beam-splitting x-ray grating positioned to diffract x-rays generated by the source of x-rays; and
an x-ray detector comprising a two-dimensional array of x-ray detecting elements, positioned to detect the x-rays diffracted by the beam-splitting grating.
29. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 28, in which both sets of a plurality of discrete structures, when simultaneously bombarded by electrons from the electron emitters, are aligned such that the x-rays generated by one set of discrete structures overlap in part the x-rays generated by the other set of discrete structures, and the overlapping x-rays will propagate together towards the beam-splitting x-ray grating.
30. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 28, in which the first material is selected from the group consisting of: beryllium, diamond, graphite, silicon, boron nitride, silicon carbide, sapphire and diamond-like carbon.
31. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 28, in which the second material is selected from the group consisting of: iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, gallium, zinc, yttrium, zirconium, molybdenum, niobium, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, tin, iridium, tantalum, tungsten, indium, cesium, barium, gold, platinum, lead and combinations and alloys thereof.
32. The x-ray interferometric imaging system of claim 28, in which the third material is selected from the group consisting of: iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, gallium, zinc, yttrium, zirconium, molybdenum, niobium, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, tin, iridium, tantalum, tungsten, indium, cesium, barium, gold, platinum, lead and combinations and alloys thereof.
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US14/527,523 US20150117599A1 (en) 2013-10-31 2014-10-29 X-ray interferometric imaging system
PCT/US2014/063164 WO2015066333A1 (en) 2013-10-31 2014-10-30 X-ray interferometric imaging system
US14/700,137 US9719947B2 (en) 2013-10-31 2015-04-29 X-ray interferometric imaging system
EP15786098.2A EP3136970B1 (en) 2014-05-01 2015-04-30 X-ray interferometric imaging system
CN202010084244.8A CN111166363A (en) 2014-05-01 2015-04-30 X-ray interference imaging system
PCT/US2015/028652 WO2015168473A1 (en) 2014-05-01 2015-04-30 X-ray interferometric imaging system
CN201580021722.8A CN106535769B (en) 2014-05-01 2015-04-30 X-ray interference imaging system
JP2016564245A JP6529984B2 (en) 2014-05-01 2015-04-30 X-ray interference imaging system
KR1020167035091A KR20170009909A (en) 2014-05-15 2015-05-15 X-ray method for measurement, characterization, and analysis of periodic structures
CN201580026529.3A CN107076682B (en) 2014-05-15 2015-05-15 X-ray method for measuring, characterizing and analyzing periodic structures
EP15792865.6A EP3143384B1 (en) 2014-05-15 2015-05-15 X-ray system and method for measurement, characterization, and analysis of periodic structures
PCT/US2015/031223 WO2015176023A1 (en) 2014-05-15 2015-05-15 X-ray method for measurement, characterization, and analysis of periodic structures
US14/712,917 US9874531B2 (en) 2013-10-31 2015-05-15 X-ray method for the measurement, characterization, and analysis of periodic structures
US14/943,445 US10349908B2 (en) 2013-10-31 2015-11-17 X-ray interferometric imaging system
US15/954,380 US10304580B2 (en) 2013-10-31 2018-04-16 Talbot X-ray microscope
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