Zeiss in 3D

Longtime leader in light and electron microscopy acquires Xradia’s 3D X-ray microscope business

Lloyd Dunlap
OBERKOCHEM, Germany—Zeiss, an international leader in the fieldsof optics and optoelectronics, has announced the planned acquisition of thePleasanton, Calif.-based Xradia Inc. Xradia provides 3D X-ray microscopes forindustrial and academic research applications, including advanced materialresearch, natural resources and geology, semiconductor process optimization andthe life sciences.
 
 
The closing of the transaction is subject to the fulfillmentof customary closing conditions, including a required filing with the U.S.competition authorities. After closing, Xradia will operate under the new nameCarl Zeiss X-ray Microscopy Inc. Both parties agreed to keep the purchase priceconfidential.
 
 
According to Dr. Michael Kaschke, president and CEO of CarlZeiss AG, "the decision to acquire Xradia was made after careful considerationof its product lines as well as sales and service coverage. By combining theproduct lines, Zeiss will be able to better serve the growing demands inmultimodal microscopic imaging and to develop solutions which create new valuesfor our customers in science and industry."
 
Two X-ray microscopy (XRM) application areas in particularare growing rapidly, observes Arno P. Merkle, academic segment manager atXradia.
 
 
"One application uses X-ray microscopy as a bridge betweenlight and electron microscopy, using XRM data to help guide the electronmicroscope to the appropriate subvolumes of interest (especially in thenanoscale 'brain mapping' project)," Merkle says. "We have demonstrated this attwo key sites in North America. The other emerging application is in the studyof the ultrastructure of frozen, hydrated cells. We have developed a soft-X-raymicroscope that operates in the laboratory and is visualizing theultrastructure of whole cells with < 50 nm resolution and high contrast withoutthe use of contrast agents, and without the need for sectioning the cell."
 
 
This more straightforward approach is receiving interest inthe synchrotron and laboratory microscopy community, Merkle states.Synchrotrons circulate electrons in a storage ring at nearly the speed oflight. These extremely bright X-rays can be used to investigate various formsof matter ranging from objects of atomic and molecular size to the propertiesof geologic and manmade materials.
 
"In the field of neuroscience, there is interest in creatingcomplete neural network maps of brain tissue down to individual synapticjunctions in order to extend our understanding of neural function and disease,"Merkle notes. "In our ongoing collaboration with the National Center forMicroscopy and Imaging Research headquartered at UC San Diego, we are using theVersaXRM-500 to image mammalian brain tissue. X-ray absorption contrast isclearly able to detect individual neural cell bodies and dendrites in threedimensions. Furthermore, a single cell was labeled and successfullydifferentiated in the XRM absorption image."
 
 
Currently, two laboratory XRM platforms are manufactured andmarketed by the newly minted Carl Zeiss X-ray Microscopy in Pleasanton: theZEISS Xradia Versa and ZEISS Xradia Ultra.
 
 
"In terms of resolution, the Versa platform achieves spatialresolution 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. "TheUltra platform incorporates X-ray focusing optics, which yield spatialresolution of 50 nm and corresponding voxel sizes of 16 nm."
 
Looking to the future, Rod Browning, president and CEO ofXradia, says, "Xradia's significant growth over the past years demonstrates thevalue of high resolution 3D X-ray microscopy for researchers worldwide. Theadditional resources offered by ZEISS will undoubtedly facilitate even morerapid growth of X-ray microscopy solutions as well as provide additional valuefor our existing customer base."

Lloyd Dunlap

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