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Zeiss in 3D
OBERKOCHEM, Germany—Zeiss, an international leader in the fields of optics and optoelectronics, has announced the planned acquisition of the Pleasanton, Calif.-based Xradia Inc. Xradia provides 3D X-ray microscopes for industrial and academic research applications, including advanced material research, natural resources and geology, semiconductor process optimization and the life sciences.
The closing of the transaction is subject to the fulfillment of customary closing conditions, including a required filing with the U.S. competition authorities. After closing, Xradia will operate under the new name Carl Zeiss X-ray Microscopy Inc. Both parties agreed to keep the purchase price confidential.
According to Dr. Michael Kaschke, president and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG, "the decision to acquire Xradia was made after careful consideration of its product lines as well as sales and service coverage. By combining the product lines, Zeiss will be able to better serve the growing demands in multimodal microscopic imaging and to develop solutions which create new values for our customers in science and industry."
Two X-ray microscopy (XRM) application areas in particular are growing rapidly, observes Arno P. Merkle, academic segment manager at Xradia.
"One application uses X-ray microscopy as a bridge between light and electron microscopy, using XRM data to help guide the electron microscope to the appropriate subvolumes of interest (especially in the nanoscale 'brain mapping' project)," Merkle says. "We have demonstrated this at two key sites in North America. The other emerging application is in the study of the ultrastructure of frozen, hydrated cells. We have developed a soft-X-ray microscope that operates in the laboratory and is visualizing the ultrastructure of whole cells with < 50 nm resolution and high contrast without the use of contrast agents, and without the need for sectioning the cell."
This more straightforward approach is receiving interest in the synchrotron and laboratory microscopy community, Merkle states. Synchrotrons circulate electrons in a storage ring at nearly the speed of light. These extremely bright X-rays can be used to investigate various forms of matter ranging from objects of atomic and molecular size to the properties of geologic and manmade materials.
"In the field of neuroscience, there is interest in creating complete neural network maps of brain tissue down to individual synaptic junctions in order to extend our understanding of neural function and disease," Merkle notes. "In our ongoing collaboration with the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research headquartered at UC San Diego, we are using the VersaXRM-500 to image mammalian brain tissue. X-ray absorption contrast is clearly able to detect individual neural cell bodies and dendrites in three dimensions. Furthermore, a single cell was labeled and successfully differentiated in the XRM absorption image."
Currently, two laboratory XRM platforms are manufactured and marketed by the newly minted Carl Zeiss X-ray Microscopy in Pleasanton: the ZEISS Xradia Versa and ZEISS Xradia Ultra.
"In terms of resolution, the Versa platform achieves spatial resolution of < 700 nm and achievable voxel dimensions down to 70 nm," Merkle says, explaining that a voxel is the 3D equivalent of a 2D pixel. "The Ultra platform incorporates X-ray focusing optics, which yield spatial resolution of 50 nm and corresponding voxel sizes of 16 nm."
Looking to the future, Rod Browning, president and CEO of Xradia, says, "Xradia's significant growth over the past years demonstrates the value of high resolution 3D X-ray microscopy for researchers worldwide. The additional resources offered by ZEISS will undoubtedly facilitate even more rapid growth of X-ray microscopy solutions as well as provide additional value for our existing customer base."