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X-ray linear dichroic ptychography.


Biominerals such as seashells, coral skeletons, bone, and tooth enamel are optically anisotropic crystalline materials with unique nanoscale and microscale organization that translates into exceptional macroscopic mechanical properties, providing inspiration for engineering 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) crystals. 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.

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