Generation and characterization of focused helical x-ray beams
The phenomenon of orbital angular momentum (OAM) affects a variety of important applications in visible optics, including optical tweezers, free-space communication, and 3D localization for fluorescence imaging. The lack of suitable wavefront shaping optics such as spatial light modulators has inhibited the ability to impart OAM on x-ray and electron radiation in a controlled way. Here, we report the experimental observation of helical soft x-ray beams generated by holographically designed diffractive optical elements. We demonstrate that these beams rotate as a function of propagation distance and measure their vorticity and coherent mode structure using ptychography. Our results establish an approach for controlling and shaping of complex focused beams for short wavelength scanning microscopy and OAM-driven applications.