X-ray linear dichroic ptychography
Biominerals such as seashells, coral skeletons, bone, and enamel are optically anisotropic crystalline materials with unique nano- scale and microscale organization that translates into exceptional macroscopic mechanical properties, providing inspiration for en- gineering new and superior biomimetic structures. Using Seriatopora aculeata coral skeleton as a model, here, we experimentally demonstrate X-ray linear dichroic ptychography and map the c-axis orientations of the aragonite (CaCO3) crystal. Linear dichroic phase imaging at the oxygen K-edge energy shows strong polarization-dependent contrast and reveals the presence of both narrow (<35°) and wide (>35°) c-axis angular spread in the coral samples. These X-ray ptychography results are corroborated by four-dimensional (4D) scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) on the same samples. Evidence of co-oriented, but disconnected, corallite subdomains indicates jagged crystal boundaries consistent with formation by amorphous nanoparticle attachment. We expect that the combination of X-ray linear dichroic ptychography and 4D STEM could be an important multimodal tool to study nano-crystallites, interfaces, nucleation, and mineral growth of optically anisotropic materials at multiple length scales.