Paul Urbach and Wim Coene to lead major new public-private research programme on lensless imaging

News - 21 November 2017 - Communication

A major new research programme will shortly be launched within the context of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) funding instrument 'Perspective for the Top Sectors'. Professors Paul Urbach and Wim Coene are to play a leading role in this project on lensless imaging.

The visualization of very small 3D objects and other nanostructures is essential for various industries. A good example is the 3D imaging of structures on integrated circuits (microchips). In the future, microchips will be made using lithography with extremely ultraviolet light, called EUV-lithography. The extremely small structures resulting from this technique can be viewed using various imaging techniques. Unfortunately, all of these techniques are limited in one way or another. For example, the resolution is not high enough, or the depth of penetration (to what depth structures can be imaged) is too limited.

X-ray radiation
SXR (Soft-X-rays) is a technique that uses soft X-ray radiation that provides both good penetration depth and high resolution. However, SXR is not ideal either, since there are no optical components, such as lenses. Lensless imaging, a form of microscopy in which the imaging optics are replaced by computer algorithms, can solve this problem. The technology is gaining interest worldwide.

The aim of this research programme is to combine the strengths of various Dutch expert groups in order to develop a coherent SXR source in Delft, and thus to further develop lensless imaging technology with SXR within the Netherlands. The intention is to make the SXR imaging facility that will be realised within this program a part of the shared facilities of the Dutch Optics Centre (DOC).

Each year, the NWO domain Applied Sciences and Technology (TTW) makes available a research budget that develops and finances new, challenging research programmes within the application-oriented and technical sciences. In this round, NWO will make 21 million euros available for programmes within the nine so-called  'Top Sectors' of The Netherlands. The programmes are also funded by companies, social organisations and the knowledge institutions involved. With a total budget of 32 million euros, 74 PhD students and 25 postgraduates will be able to start working in the next five to six years.