NHLBI lab developed new scanning technique, greatly improving X-rays
Left: Neutron interferometer’s image of a chunk of granite. Right: Image of a cylinder chunk of granite.

Researchers at an NHLBI lab in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Canada’s University of Waterloo developed a new scanning method that might allow scientists to see details in the interiors of opaque objects at scales ranging from one nanometer to up to ten micrometers. The study was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

“The idea was first developed by our lab to capture the image of materials where X-rays travel at slightly different speeds than in the air, such as the human body itself,” said Han Wen, senior investigator at NHLBI. “Central to this idea is X-ray gratings, which were made with the highly specialized tools at the NIST Nanofab facility.”

Fortuitously, Wen said, the NIST and Waterloo scientists met the NIH team members at a conference and struck up a collaboration, suspecting that the gratings would work just as well for neutrons as for X-rays. The NIH team brought the gratings back to NIST, where they were assembled into the neutron interferometer.