The scope of this article is to describe a transmission X-ray microscope, possible biological applications of soft X-ray microscopy and preliminary results.
For soft X-ray microscopy of biological specimens the wavelength range of 1–10 nm is best suited. Microscopy in this wavelength range requires intense X-ray sources as well as high-resolution X-ray lenses. Intense X-radiation is provided by the synchrotron radiation of electron and positron storage rings. Suited X-ray lenses are zone plates.
A theoretical treatment of the contrast mechanism and the radiation damage as well as first experiments yield the following results. Firstly, relatively thick (1–10 μm) biological specimens can be investigated. This means that unsectioned dried and even wet cells and cell organelles in a natural state can be examined. Second, it will be possible to resolve cellular aggregates in live cells with a resolution in the region of ≤10nm.