14-Oct-2021 - Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (IKZ)

Tailor-made X-rays for research and development

Start-up expansion with funding from IFB Hamburg

The high-tech Spin-Off TXproducts, founded in April 2021 on the DESY campus in Hamburg, will receive funding from Investitions- und Förderbank Hamburg (ifb). TX stands for "Tailored X-Ray", and the company develops solutions for customizing synchrotron X-rays beams for experiments at large-scale research facilities. "We make the best microscopes in the world even better" is the motto of the young company. It is led by Peter Gaal, who is also the head of the X-Ray Optics group at the Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (IKZ) in Berlin, and by his former doctoral student Daniel Schmidt, a specialist in nanoscience research and time-resolved X-ray and laser technology.

The team has developed a small device that can make research at large x-ray light sources like DESY's Petra III much more efficient. Their product is based on piezoelectric crystals which convert plastic deformation in an electrical voltage and vice versa. Such crystals are also used in mobile phones or in sensors, e.g., to detect a virus. The development of the required crystals is the result of the company's close cooperation with the IKZ. No bigger than half a shoebox, their new device can easily be installed in various experimental stations at synchrotron beamlines. Here it enables researchers to adapt the time structure of the X-ray beam specifically to the needs of their experiment. Thus, the researchers can now determine the exposure of their samples, e.g., to film a chemical reaction while it is taking place.

The start-up will now occupy offices at the DESY Innovation Village in the center of the DESY campus. The Village accommodates innovation and pre-foundation projects as well as freshly founded Start-Ups. The location is ideal for TXproducts: “We need the proximity to a synchrotron storage ring”, says Peter Gaal. “There are beamlines at Petra III who want our product and who support our R&D activities”. In addition, the young start-up can exchange ideas with other founders on the campus and find well-trained employees in the future. As an add-on, TXproducts can get support from the DESY Start-Up Office in business matters. "Our campus offers young high-tech start-ups a rich ecosystem in which they can grow and develop their products. For a start-up like TXproducts the connection to Petra III, which is one of the most brilliant synchrotron radiation sources in the world, is especially important," says Arik Willner, Chief Technology Officer at DESY. Recently, the IKZ has also opened an office on the DESY campus under the roof of a JointLab with DESY. "The location offers ideal conditions for bringing our research results closer to application, for example in the field of new X-ray optics," explains Thomas Schröder, Director of the IKZ.

TXproducts is already working on new products. With support from IFB TXproducts’ pulse picker “WaveGate” will be developed into a mobile demonstrator. The device can adjust the pulse frequency of an impinging X-ray beam or even leak isolated pulses towards a sample. "Light travels seven times around the equator in one second," explains Daniel Schmidt. "In comparison our WaveGate can switch the X-ray beam on and off while light travels only 30 meters." The next device the researchers are working on, the so-called "PicoSwitch", is even faster: it can switch the X-ray beam on and off within the width of a needle, thus allowing the light to pass for only five to ten picoseconds (trillionths of a second). Such short beams are necessary to study processes that occur faster than the duration of the X-ray pulses itself. There is a strong demand for short X-ray and optical pulses in modern research. The founders have received support funding from the Investitions- und Förderbank Hamburg (IFB) for the start-up phase of the company.

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