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Scattering of X-rays and polarization

  1. Jan 13, 2015 #1
    I read once (I don't remember exactly where) that X-rays scattered perpendicularly to the direction of the incident X-rays are linearly polarized (even although the incident ones are not). I think the discussion was in the context of low energy X-rays, and the explanation used classical electromagnetism arguments: it was the same as the polarization by scattering mentioned here: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/phyopt/polar.html

    Is it true only for very low energy X-rays (with Rayleigh or Thompson scattering, i.e, frequency of the scattering = frequency of incident radiation), or is it true also for higher energies where the scattering is mainly by Compton effect?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2015 #2
    This was discovered by Charles Barkla in 1905 (the paper is from 1906).


    The classical polarization dependence holds for Thomson scattering. There are other effects such as multiple scattering, magnetic scattering, and resonant scattering that have different polarization behavior.


    I am not sure about Compton scattering. There are polarization effects that have been used for experiments, in particular to study magnetism

  4. Jan 14, 2015 #3


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    Isn't the Brewster Angle involved in this? At large angles of incidence, you get reflection of X Rays at metal surface. It's how X Ray telescopes work.
  5. Jan 15, 2015 #4
    Total external reflection of x-rays is indeed used for x-ray optics (terrestrial and astro). However, it is not an efficient way to control or modify polarization.

    The angles up to which you get total external reflection of x-rays is typically very small. e.g. for a Gold surface and 12.4 keV x-rays (1 Angstrom wave length), the cut-off angle is 0.351 deg.

    http://www.x-ray-optics.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=64&lang=en [Broken]

    The large angles close to 90deg you get by using Bragg reflections, choosing a crystal and Bragg reflection that have the correct d-spacing (or choosing the wave length to match the crystal). With this you can get excellent polarization purity.


    The obvious disadvantage of Bragg-based optics compared to mirrors is that Bragg optics only work for a very narrow energy band, whereas mirrors can work for a wide range of energies.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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