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Micronit Constructs Next-Generation X-Ray Telescope in a Joint Project

Cosine Research (cosine) and Micronit Microfluidics (Micronit) are proud to announce their cooperation in an X-ray telescope project for the European Space Agency (ESA). The collaborative project concerns the development of a new type of lens for the observation of X-ray radiation from the universe. This new type of lens is much lighter than comparable lenses and can therefore be more economically sent into outer space. Cosine leads the international consortium of companies and knowledge institutes that include Micronit and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON).

The X-ray telescope being developed for XEUS is made from silicon wafers. These wafers are commonly used in the electronics industry to make electronic chips, and can be bonded together to form an X-ray lens. For an X-ray lens, a large surface is needed, but a stack of precisely structured wafers can have the same effect. The manufacture and assembly of silicon wafers is a complicated job requiring precision of one ten-thousandth of a millimetre. Micronit will manufacture the wafers to these precise dimensions by using special processing techniques and equipment. Cosine will then assemble the wafers in such way that a light-weight, precise, and robust lens is created that can survive the harsh conditions of outer space.

The X-ray lens is being developed for ESA's proposed XEUS satellite. Recently, XEUS was selected as one of the candidates for the Cosmic Vision program, a plan for scientific satellites that will be launched by ESA between 2015 and 2025. XEUS is a next-generation telescope that will study the fundamental laws and the origin of the universe. The origin of black holes, the evolution of galaxies, the development of structures on cosmic level and extreme gravity under extreme conditions are just a few examples of the things that can be studied with XEUS. The selection for the Cosmic Vision program increases the chance that the X-ray lens developed by cosine and Micronit will be used in future missions.

Ronny van 't Oever, co-founder and CTO of Micronit: "It is essential that the silicon wafers are processed with a very high accuracy. We are proud that our etching and bonding techniques have been chosen as the best alternatives for the project. We are very glad to have cosine as our partner. Both our companies develop solutions for high-tech scientific problems, and this gives a good match."

For Marco Beijersbergen, founder and manager of cosine, this contract is an important step. In the beginning of his company, he worked with ESTEC, the technology centre of ESA in Noordwijk (NL). In that time, he stood at the cradle of the design of the XEUS telescope and was one of the co-inventors of the technology. "The first job we won with cosine was the development of the XEUS-technology we invented with ESTEC. Meanwhile, cosine does a lot more, but the design of XEUS and the development of this technology is still an important activity. The assignment of this important job and the selection for the Cosmic Vision program is the crowning glory of many years of research. The cooperation between cosine and Micronit dates from the first phase of this development in 2001. The cooperation is now considerably strengthened with this assignment."

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