Developing Technologies for X-ray Astrophysics
Assistant Professor Casey DeRoo; Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa
The field of X-ray astronomy is relatively young, with the first detection of an extrasolar X-ray source happening only ~60 years ago. Since then, a number of instruments have illuminated (or rather, been illuminated by) the X-ray Universe, giving us insights into high energy phenomena like accreting black holes, supernovae, and outflows from active galactic nuclei (AGN).
In this talk, I will focus on the instruments—ultra-smooth optics, high resolution gratings, and efficient solid state detectors—that make X-ray astronomy possible. In particular, I’ll focus on two technologies under study at the University of Iowa: (1) the manufacture of customized reflection gratings made with electron-beam lithography (EBL), which requires shaping features < 100 nm in size over centimeter-scales, and (2) the fabrication and operation of adjustable X-ray optics, which utilize the inverse piezoelectric effect to offer control of a X-ray mirror’s figure. These technologies enable missions addressing outstanding questions of how the Universe works on the largest scales, such as how supermassive black holes interact with their host galaxies over cosmic time and where half of the “missing” normal matter might be located.