Sub-micron X-ray Computed Tomography Facility at Durham University - non-equipment part

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Engineering and Computing Sciences


Researchers from many areas of science and engineering need to investigate the internal structure of solid materials and artefacts; they might want to determine the proportions of different materials, the locations of voids, the presence of water, see structural fabrics or many other possibilities. Accurate non-destructive investigation of this nature has proved almost impossible until recently. However, with the advent of new X-ray scanning machines, both available at a reasonable cost and relatively easy to use, a new world of investigation is opening up. These machines are very similar to computed tomography (CT) scanners one finds in hospitals. However these machines are constructed to be particularly suitable for scanning of materials such as soils, concrete, rock and some metals.

This proposal seeks funding to set up a new XRCT scanning facility for researchers in civil engineering, bioengineering, manufacturing, geology, archaeology and biological sciences. based at Durham University. The new facility will primarily serve groups working at Durham, Newcastle and Sheffield Universities. However it will be possible for other academics and industry to use the facility as well.

Planned Impact

This proposal is for a piece of equipment that will be used by scientists and engineers from a wide range of disciplines. It will therefore have a part to play in the impact of research activities in a similarly wide range of areas. Some examples of impact are as follows:
-Being able to see and measure the 3D microstructures of manufactured materials will help to avoid unexpected material failures which could have economic and societal impact;
-Understanding the way that voids are distributed in a soil sample allows us to determine how strength may change with climate when that soil is part of a natural or man-made slope this could help us to predict landslides induced by rainfall;
-Scanning of rocks can aid understanding of how volcanic activity can develop.
The presence of the equipment will have impact in at least these areas: civil engineering, geology, biomechanics, archaeology and manufacturing.


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Readle D (2016) Fibre reinforcement in earthen construction materials in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Construction Materials

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Colombier M (2018) Vesiculation and Quenching During Surtseyan Eruptions at Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Volcano, Tonga in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Description This grant supports an equipment grant from EPSRC which bought an X-ray computed tomography machine in 2013.
Exploitation Route The grant supports the xrct facility at Durham and there are many users from across science and engineering
Sectors Construction,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description The equipment is used for a wide variety of investigations of solids in science and engineering, mainly in earth sciences and geotechnical engineering. The machien is currenty being used in GCRF funded projects. The machine is now nearing the end of its life.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Construction,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal

Description Fines migration in sandstones
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NERC Oil & Gas CDT PhD studentship for Catriona Sellick PI is Prof. H.C. Greenwell 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2019
Description In situ observation of foaming, coalescence and collapse in magmatic foams using ultrafast x-ray tomography
Amount £95,940 (GBP)
Funding ID ee12402-2 
Organisation Diamond Light Source 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 02/2017
Description Mobilising magma in the largest eruptions: In situ observation of micro-structural controls on multi-phase fluid rheology
Amount £95,940 (GBP)
Funding ID EE15898 
Organisation Diamond Light Source 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2017
Description Nanogeochemistry of Enhanced Oil Recovery - Phase II
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PI is Prof. H.C. Greenwell 
Organisation BP (British Petroleum) 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2019
Description Programme Grant
Amount £5,976,490 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R034575/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 11/2022