Research in MKI’s Space Nanotechnology Laboratory (SNL) (Dr. Mark Schattenburg, director) seeks to apply micro/nanofabrication technology and precision engineering to achieve lightweight, high-performance and high-resolution optical components. The advanced optics and diffraction gratings developed by the lab are targeted to both space- and ground-based instrumentation in the x-ray and IR bands.
The lab continues to develop a new type of x-ray diffractive device called the critical-angle transmission (CAT) grating. This breakthrough design allows much higher diffraction efficiency and spectral resolution than previous technology. Absorption and emission line spectroscopy, with the performance made possible by a well-designed CAT x-ray grating spectrometer (CATXGS), will target science objectives concerning the large scale structure of the universe, cosmic feedback, interstellar and intergalactic media, and stellar accretion. Kinematics of galactic outflows, hot gas in galactic halos, black hole growth, the missing baryons in galaxies and the Warm Hot Intergalactic Medium, and the effect of x-ray radiation on protoplanetary disks all pose questions that will be addressed by a CATXGS-carrying mission.
The SNL continues to develop advanced laboratory equipment and novel processing techniques. The lab’s unique Nanoruler grating patterning tool enables it to write periodic patterns with very high precision. The lab is also developing new technology for thermal shaping of high resolution thin-glass optics for x-ray telescopes.