Soft x-ray optics can use narrow slots to direct x-rays into a desirable pattern on a focal plane. While square-pack, square-pore, slumped optics exist for this purpose, they are costly. Silicon (Si) is being examined as a possible low-cost replacement. A fabrication method was developed for narrow slots in Si demonstrating the feasibility of stacked slot optics to replace micropores.

Current micropore optics exist that have 20-micron-square pores on 26- micron pitch in glass with a depth of 1 mm and an extent of several square centimeters. Among several proposals to emulate the square pore optics are stacked slot chips with etched vertical slots. When the slots in the stack are positioned orthogonally to each other, the component will approach the soft xray focusing observed in the micropore optics. A specific improvement Si provides is that it can have narrower sidewalls between slots to permit greater throughput of x-rays through the optics. In general, Si can have more variation in slot geometry (width, length). Further, the sidewalls can be coated with high-Z materials to enhance reflection and potentially reduce the surface roughness of the reflecting surface.

Narrow, close-packed deep slots in Si have been produced using potassium hydroxide (KOH) etching and a patterned silicon nitride (SiN) mask. The achieved slot geometries have sufficient wall smoothness, as observed through scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging, to enable evaluation of these slot plates as an optical element for soft x-rays. Etches of different angles to the crystal plane of Si were evaluated to identify a specific range of etch angles that will enable low undercut slots in the Si material. These slots with the narrow sidewalls are demonstrated to several hundred microns in depth, and a technical path to 500-micron deep slots in a precision geometry of narrow, closepacked slots is feasible. Although intrinsic stress in ultrathin wall Si is observed, slots with walls approaching 1.5 microns can be achieved (a significant improvement over the 6-micron walls in micropore optics).

The major advantages of this technique are the potential for higher x-ray throughout (due to narrow slot walls) and lower cost over the existing slumped micropore glass plates. KOH etching of smooth sidewalls has been demonstrated for many applications, suggesting its feasibility for implementation in x-ray optics. Si cannot be slumped like the micropore optics, so the focusing will be achieved with millimeter-scale slot plates that populate a spherical dome. The possibility for large-scale production exists for Si parts that is more difficult to achieve in micropore parts.

This work was done by James Chervenak and Michael Collier of Goddard Space Flight Center, and Jennette Mateo of SB Microsystems. GSC-16717-1