X-ray microscopy inherently possesses characteristics complementary to optical and electron microscopy. Short wavelength x-ray radiation, especially in the so-called 'water window', permits a twenty-fold improvement in spatial resolution over optical microscopy while preserving a depth of field large enough to image whole biological specimens int heir natural state. Whereas electron microscopy can access atomic-scale resolution,this can only be applied to biological and medical specimens at the expense of detrimental preparation procedures that preclude real-time analysis of structural changes in living organisms. We describe progress being made in an x-ray imaging technology that provides high-resolution single frame x-ray images of in-vitro specimens captured in a time sufficiently short that any radiation damage mechanisms to the structure are not recorded. Several different biology and medical research groups find this type of microscopy particularly well-suited to the detailed analysis of sub-cellular features, and to the study of live organisms subjected to various forms of external stimuli. This technology utilizes bright x-ray sources produced by compact pulse laser systems. The incorporation of advanced x-ray optical and electron-optical systems will lead to the development of a compact, real-time x-ray microscope, having a broad range of applications.
Nanosecond flash x-ray microscopy of living biological specimens is demonstrated with subcellular spatial resolution. Single shot images, produced by a compact laser- plasma x-ray source optimized for maximum image contrast, are captured before radiation processes can affect the specimen.