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article imageBright synchrotron X-rays image life's hidden building blocks

The basics of life, carbon and oxygen, are often embedded deeply in materials scientists want to study, impossible to image without destroying the samples. But researchers from France and Finland announced their new synchrotron X-ray method can do it.
An international team of scientists say they may revolutionize the way scientists chemically analyze rare materials, as diverse as fossils and meteor samples, with the synchrotron X-ray technique they developed.
A paper detailing their work appears in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Materials.
According to the team:
On the left is the sample  and on the right is the part studied with X-rays  resulting in a 3D image...
On the left is the sample, and on the right is the part studied with X-rays, resulting in a 3D image, visualized here as a 2-D cut-through with different colors representing different chemical carbon bonds.
Simo Huotari (Helsinki University); With permission by Nature Materials
The three-dimensional configurations of the elements carbon and oxygen, as they are distributed within the chemical bonds of materials researchers in many fields want to study, are hidden beyond the sight of the X-ray tomography methods widely in use in material and medical sciences today. The techniques in use now easily image textures and shapes, but not chemical states.
"Seeing" different types of chemical bonding of carbon or oxygen within inclusions lodged in samples is a research goal in many fields, including physics, chemistry, geology, biology and engineering. Surprisingly, the task of imaging variations in chemical bonding of carbon and oxygen atoms embedded within Moon or Martian rocks or within fossils buried in lava samples has remained challenging or impossible until now.
But the scientists, from the University of Helsinki and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), are claiming they have used extremely bright synchrotron-produced X-rays to image the chemical bonds of different forms of pure carbon, such as graphite and diamond, embedded in an opaque material.
They expect this new technique will open the way to new nano-scale insights into the structures of many intriguing materials, from all over Earth and from space.
More about Synchrotron, Synchrotron Xrays, Xray tomography, Xrays
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