X-ray birefringence imaging

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The polarizing optical microscope has been used since the 19th century to study the structural anisotropy of materials, based on the phenomenon of optical birefringence. In contrast, the phenomenon of x-ray birefringence has been demonstrated only recently and has been shown to be a sensitive probe of the orientational properties of individual molecules and/or bonds in anisotropic solids. Here, we report a technique—x-ray birefringence imaging (XBI)—that enables spatially resolved mapping of x-ray birefringence of materials, representing the x-ray analog of the polarizing optical microscope. Our results demonstrate the utility and potential of XBI as a sensitive technique for imaging the local orientational properties of anisotropic materials, including characterization of changes in molecular orientational ordering associated with solid-state phase transitions and identification of the size, spatial distribution, and temperature dependence of domain structures.

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