It is the task of x-ray optics to adapt the raw beam generated by modern sources such as synchrotron storage rings to a great variety of experimental requirements in terms of intensity, spot size, polarization and other parameters. The very high quality of synchrotron radiation (source size of a few microns and beam divergence of a few micro-radians) and the extreme x-ray flux (power of several hundred Watts in a few square mm) make this task quite difficult. In particular the heat load aspect is very important in the conditioning process of the brute x-ray power to make it suitable for being used on the experimental stations. Cryogenically cooled silicon crystals and water-cooled diamond crystals can presently fulfill this task, but limits will soon be reached and new schemes and materials must be envisioned.
A major tendency of instrument improvement has always been to concentrate more photons into a smaller spot utilizing a whole variety of focusing devices such as Fresnel zone plates, refractive lenses and systems based on bent surfaces, for example, Kirkpatrick-Baez systems. Apart from the resistance of the sample, the ultimate limits are determined by the source size and strength on one side, by materials properties, cooling, mounting and bending schemes on the other side, and fundamentally by the diffraction process. There is also the important aspect of coherence that can be both a nuisance and a blessing for the experiments, in particular for imaging techniques. Its conservation puts additional constraints on the quality of the optical elements.
The overview of the present challenges includes the properties of present and also mentions aspects of future x-ray sources such as the “ultimate” storage ring and free electron lasers. These challenges range from the thermal performances of monochromators to the surface quality of mirrors, from coherence preservation of modern multilayers to short pulse preservation by crystals, and from micro- and nano-focusing techniques to the accuracy and stability of mechanical supports.