X-ray microscopy plays an integral role in the study of smallest objects like cells, viruses, and proteins – the building blocks of our life – or microchips and nanomaterials, where it can provide extremely useful information. The core elements of such microscopes are their imaging optics, which have to be highly precise in order to achieve the best resolution. However, the currently available optical technology limits commercial X-ray microscopes to a resolution of 50 nm, which is a true bottleneck in the field of microscopy. It hinders large-scale research institutes from gaining new scientific insights and high-tech companies from unlocking their true potential. We have overcome this problem by using nanostructured optics enabling a ten times better resolution down to 5 nm in the future.
XRnanotech is a deep tech spin-off from the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) that will bring this innovation to the market. Our vision is to make the nanoworld visible. In order to achieve this, XRnanotech provides pioneering nano-optics with outstanding quality that are necessary to peak deeper into matter than ever before. Thanks to our innovative fabrication technology, we were able to break the world record in X-ray focusing, which is a key asset for our products as they offer the worldwide highest resolution. Apart from that, this project builds on a series of USPs developed at PSI that are not yet commercially available.
The goal of this InnoBooster project is to advance the nanofabrication technology from the current lab-scale level to a commercial-scale setup. Therefore, the current prototype fabrication process developed at PSI needs to be scaled-up and optimized towards a wafer-filling batch production process. Ongoing product development will ensure an enriched product catalogue after the InnoBooster support, which allows attracting a wider customer base. On the business side, we plan to penetrate in a first step the European, in a second step the American and in a third step the Asian market. Here, InnoBooster can accelerate our market entry enormously. With the InnoBooster funding, we will be able to offer superior products that solve actual pains of existing customers in a growing international market.
What is special about the project?
X-ray microscopy bridges the current gap between light microscopy and electron microscopy and has a unique potential due to the penetration power and the chemical sensitivity of X-rays. Hence, X-ray microscopy is crucial for studying small biological samples, nanostructured microchips or modern energy materials. However, focusing X-rays is a real challenge and access to cutting-edge X-ray optics is currently a true bottleneck in many important industries and research fields. In order to make smallest structures like cells, viruses, transistors or nanostructured battery materials visible, high-quality optics with highest resolution are needed. Apart from that, images need a good brightness, which means that optics require the best possible photon efficiency. Moreover, advanced experiments at free electron lasers, the brightest lightsources of the world, rely on highly radiation-stable optics.
Here, we spent several years of research and development at PSI to overcome current limitations in design and production of nanostructures X-ray optics. Thus, our business builds on a series of innovations that are not yet commercially available:
1) Unprecedented ultra-high resolution is achieved by a unique line doubling technique. Using this technique, we broke the world-record in resolution, which enables our customers to obtain sharpest images from smallest structures.
2) Best image quality is provided by the outstanding performance of our optics. Our optics achieve twice the photon efficiency compared to state-of-the-art products by nanofabricated blazed structures, which yield high-quality images in short times.
3) Highest radiation stability enables applications at high intensity X-ray lasers without melting away like conventional products.
4) Our patented fabrication method allows overcoming current limitations in design and functionality.
The idea for this project was born in July 2019, when we started talking to potential customers and partners and were awarded the PSI Founder Fellowship. Since its founding in the beginning of February 2020, XRnanotech received the title «Deep Tech Pioneer» from the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge, was successful at Venture Kick stage 1, 2 and 3, got support from the high-tech business incubation centers from CERN and from ESA and became member of the Luminate accelerator.
Apart from that, we built up important partnerships, e.g. within the League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources and with the Swiss Nanoscience Institute.
The funding allowed us to develop the next generation of nanostructured high-tech optics and enabled us to set up a first product catalogue. We increased our marketing efforts and managed to bring first products to the market by selling optical elements to first international customers.
In the near future, we plan to develop new products, penetrate different markets, increase our sales figures and raise a seed funding round.
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 06.09.2021