The development of high brilliance X-ray sources coupled with advances in manufacturing technologies has led to significant improvements in submicrometre probes for spectroscopy, diffraction and imaging applications. The generation of a small beam spot size is commonly based on three principles: total reflection (as used in optical elements involving mirrors or capillaries), refraction (such as in refractive lenses) and diffraction. The latter effect is employed in Bragg-Fresnel or Soret lenses, commonly known as Fresnel zone plate lenses. These lenses currently give the best spatial resolution, but are traditionally limited to rather soft X-rays - at high energies, their use is still limited by their efficiency. Here we report the fabrication of high-efficiency, high-contrast gold and nickel multistep (quaternary) Fresnel zone plates using electron beam lithography. We achieve a maximum efficiency of 55% for the nickel plate at 7 keV. In addition to their, high efficiency, the lenses offer the advantages of low background signal and effective reduction of unwanted diffraction orders. We anticipate that these lenses should have a significant impact on techniques such as microscopy, micro-fluorescence and micro-diffraction, which require medium resolution (500-100 nm) and high flux at fixed energies.
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