Cr/Sc and Ni/V multilayers, intended as normal incidence soft x-ray mirrors and Brewster angle polarizers, have been synthesized by employing a novel modulated low-energy and high-flux ion assistance as a means of engineering the interfaces between the subnanometer layers on an atomic scale during magnetron sputter deposition. To reduce both roughness and intermixing, the ion energy was modulated within each layer. The flat and abrupt interfaces yielded soft x-ray mirrors with near-normal incidence reflectances of at the Sc absorption edge and at the V absorption edge. Multilayers optimized for the Brewster angle showed a reflectance of and an extinction ratio of for Cr/Sc and and for Ni/V. Transmission electron microscopy investigations showed an amorphous Cr/Sc structure with an accumulating high spatial frequency roughness. For Ni/V the initial growth mode is amorphous and then turns crystalline after of the total thickness, with an accumulating low spatial frequency roughness as a consequence. Elastic recoil detection analyses showed that N was the major impurity in both Cr/Sc and Ni/V with concentrations of 15 at. % and 9 at. %, respectively, but also O (3 at. % and 1.3 at. %) and C (0.5 at. % and 1.9 at. %) were present. Simulations of the possible normal incidence reflective properties in the soft x-ray range of are given, predicting that reflectivities of more than 31% for Cr/Sc and 5.8% for Ni/V can be achieved if better control of the impurities and the deposition process is employed. The simulations also show that Cr/Sc is a good candidate for mirrors for the photon energies between the absorption edges of B () and Sc ().
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