Need a way to map elemental compositions and have the results be both revelatory and stunning? We’ve got you covered.
The shades of neon fluorescence in these images correspond to the distribution of different elements. Using the new Maia detector at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), we can track the way an incident x-ray beam causes these materials to emit thousands of secondary x-rays that carry the signatures of the local atoms.
The clincher is that all these images—produced by scanning x-ray fluorescence microscopy—were just part of the commissioning process. Basically, the synchrotron scientists called their friends and asked them for samples to confirm the capabilities of the Maia detector. And, you know, it revealed awesome stuff.
Take the Great Blue Heron feather up top—we can see concentrations of sulfur (red), calcium (green), and zinc (blue). Future scans can measure the elements and check for the influence of environmental toxins or pollutants.
Or look at the wings, legs, and antennae of the Asian longhorned beetle, an invasive and highly destructive species. Entomologists are developing a fungus to resist these bugs, and they can see concentrated calcium caused by the fungus and other elemental surprises that push entomology in new directions. And lovely as it all is, they’re just getting started.