Folkard, M., Schettino, G., Vojnovic, B., Gilchrist, S., Michette, A. G., Pfauntsch, S. J., Prise, K. M. and Michael, B. D. A Focused Ultrasoft X-Ray Microbeam for Targeting Cells Individually with Submicrometer Accuracy. Radiat. Res. 156, 796–804 (2001).

The application of microbeams is providing new insights into the actions of radiation at the cell and tissue levels. So far, this has been achieved exclusively through the use of collimated charged particles. One alternative is to use ultrasoft X rays, focused by X-ray diffractive optics. We have developed a unique facility that uses 0.2–0.8-mm-diameter zone plates to focus ultrasoft X rays to a beam of less than 1 μm diameter. The zone plate images characteristic K-shell X rays of carbon or aluminum, generated by focusing a beam of 5–10 keV electrons onto the appropriate target. By reflecting the X rays off a grazing-incidence mirror, the contaminating bremsstrahlung radiation is reduced to 2%. The focused X rays are then aimed at selected subcellular targets using rapid automated cell-finding and alignment procedures; up to 3000 cells per hour can be irradiated individually using this arrangement.

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