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Optimized multilayer coatings for enhanced SPO mirror performance in Athena’s X-ray Optics

cosine is developing and supplying hundreds X-ray optics mirror modules, employing its Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) technology. This is done in preparation for the world’s largest X-ray telescope, Athena, which is being developed by the European Space Agency. In order to manufacture the optics, cosine utilizes as part of the process an industrial coating machine and develops the coatings in collaboration with DTU Space. We recently verified and approved the compatibility of the coatings for Athena with the SPO production processes.

The development process of our SPO entails a customized approach that requires the use of various techniques, including the use of industrial coating techniques for the deposition of coatings. These coating techniques play a crucial role in validating and improving the reflectivity of our mirror modules. Athena will operate within an energy range of 0.1 keV to 12 keV. Previous studies performed at DTU Space have established that the required effective area can be achieved at the low-energy and high-energy photon range using a combination of bi-layer coatings and linear graded multilayers. The primary objective of this endeavor is to perform the necessary studies and experiments to ensure that the mirror coatings for the Athena mission perform as intended and are compatible with the essential process steps involved in the manufacturing of SPO.

cosine’s collaboration with DTU Space involves the use of the industrial coating facility in cosine’s cleanroom facility for the purpose of further developing the coatings for the Athena mission. With the industrial coating facility having been installed at cosine in 2018, we have specifically developed patterned Ir/C bilayer and linear graded Ir/C multilayer coatings on SPO mirror plates to enhance their reflectivity at 1 keV and 6 keV to 7 keV and established the compatibility of patterned Ir/C (iridium/carbon) multilayer coatings on SPO plates with the SPO production processes. The design and X-ray characterization of the coatings are carried out in DTU’s facilities in Denmark. The coating of up to 100.000 mirror plates will take place at cosine in the Netherlands.

About Athena
Athena (Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics) is ESA’s future large X-ray telescope, equipped with state-of-the-art scientific instruments. It is designed to address key questions in astrophysics as part of the Cosmic Vision science theme, “The Hot and Energetic Universe”.

About SPO
Silicon Pore Optics is a revolutionary technology invented and produced by cosine, in cooperation with ESA. It involves the bonding and stacking of many silicon wafers, creating a novel type of lightweight X-ray lens. cosine’s High Energy Optics business unit is internationally known for the development and application of X-ray optics and systems. It combines and applies knowledge about semiconductor processes, silicon, glass, and mass production to develop and produce lightweight, high-resolution X-ray optics. Those find applications ranging from space-based astrophysical telescopes to medical, semiconductor, and material analysis systems used by industry and academia.

About cosine
cosine is a leading worldwide company in the development of space instrumentation, such as Silicon Pore Optics and remote sensing solutions with onboard processing. We combine physics and technology to bring out-of-the-box solutions to our clients. We have been developing and delivering innovative measurement systems for space and industrial applications since 1998. Our company operates 1,000 m2 of cleanrooms and high-tech assembly facilities to build and test the systems we produce for customers at our headquarters in Sassenheim, The Netherlands.

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