An X-ray Micro-Computed Tomography Facility with in-situ/in operando testing.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Materials Science and Engineering


There is a fundamental shift in materials technology towards manufacturing materials products which are tailor-made to specific dimensional requirements and function, and are inhomogeneous, i.e. having structure and chemistry which vary in 3D in a complex manner. It has become essential, therefore, to be able to employ characterisation methodologies that can effectively evaluate new materials/products in 3-dimensions, and to apply environments to determine how their structure, and therefore function, evolve with conditions.

X-ray computed tomography (MicroCT) is a powerful tool for non-destructively imaging the interior 3-dimensional microstructure of objects. Being well established in the medical field, MicroCT is playing an increasingly pivotal role in materials science and engineering research, and is now a core-technology on the EPSRC roadmap.

Very recent technological advances now make it possible for the first time to combine several crucial features of this technology in one instrument: a practically useful sample size (field of view), resolution of < 0.5 micrometre, and in-situ testing of samples while concurrently imaging the 3D microstructure.

The Zeiss Xradia 620 Versa is a state-of-the-art X-ray Microscope with innovative optics, optimised for 3D non-destructive imaging of heterogeneous composite materials. It is combined with various specialist specimen stages to allow mechanical, electrical, and fluid-based testing of materials in 3D.

Micro-scale computed tomography at the proposed advanced level will give researchers a massively improved insight into materials structures, enabling scientists and engineers to better characterise a diverse range of materials, such as aircraft components, new battery materials, human bone and tissue, new biomedical materials implants and other complex materials. This will allow researchers to develop materials that perform better than existing alternatives, making them lighter, less expensive, more robust and more sustainable.

Planned Impact

The new facility will impact numerous scientific and technical areas. Thematic Impact activities will be led by academics most active in the research themes described below:

Energy & Environmental Systems: there will be a strong focus on developing new materials for batteries and capacitors, and investigating materials for use in nuclear reactors or for nuclear waste disposal. We will use existing links with the Faraday Institute, National Nuclear Laboratory and Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. We will also invite a wide range or researchers to make use of the MicroCT with the assistance of the Energy 2050, one of the UK's largest energy research institutes in Europe.

Advanced 3D Manufacturing: The EPSRC MAPP Future Manufacturing Hub (MAPP: Manufacture using Advanced Powder Processes) works with industry and HVM Catapult partners to overcome some of the common challenges around advanced powder processes and accelerate their deployment in aerospace, energy and automotive sectors. MAPP offers an excellent opportunity to engage with a highly active and strategically important user base using several mechanisms including a lecture series, international conference and feasibility studies, and access to research staff from over 35 companies and 20 universities.

Structural Integrity, Composites & Tribology: we aim to develop a better understanding of materials under dynamic conditions. We will work with the The Leonardo Centre for Tribology, the CDT in Integrated Tribology and the EPSRC Programme Grant - Friction: The Tribology Enigma. These activities increase our exposure to potential users. The AMRC Composite Centre is a state-of-the-art facility for advanced composite manufacturing research and development, based in a dedicated extension to the AMRC Factory of the Future and has many company contacts who currently use a lower resolution MicroCT and will benefit from the superior capability of our proposed microscope.

Biological Tissues & Biomaterials: We aim to generate impact that helps alleviate the effects of disease or ageing. UoS hosts the Insigneo Institute for in silico Medicine, Europe's largest research institute dedicated entirely to the development, validation, and use of in silico medicine technologies. Our Department of Oncology & Metabolism includes a group on bone research, which brings together scientists and clinicians that specialise in benign bone disease and is home to the world class Mellanby Bone Research Centre. Both these centres run regular meetings and workshops that we will participate in and engage with the medical research community.

Engaging with the wider academic and industrial community: we will do so by running four workshops (launch plus end of years 1, 2 and 3) and hosting 12 open days per year, taking place at regular pre-advertised intervals and allowing interested parties to drop by and discuss the facility with technical staff. We will present our findings at relevant industry- focused events such as Materials Research Exchange 2020, and the MicroCT listed on, an online portal that is free to list on and allows end-users to search for scientific and technical equipment.

Engaging with the general public: will be done via many regularly scheduled events, where we aim to run at least one activity per year accessible by the general public, such as Cafe Scientifique, Sheffield Festival of the Mind and the Cheltenham Science Festival.

Wealth creation, commercialisation and exploitation: We will utilise available schemes to progress our work to higher Technology Readiness Levels via for example, Innovate UK CR&D calls or KTPs. We will work with a team at UoS which supports the commercialisation of the University's IP in order to identity and exploit any commercial opportunities.
Description Researchfish March 2023
(1) This grant has funded an Advanced X-ray Microscope, the first of its type and capability at the University of Sheffield. It has enabled interdisciplinary research to be carried out across a wide variety of research areas including batteries, 3D printing, electronics, biomaterials, food science, composites, advanced alloys and geology. Over 40 different users and > 10 external groups/industry have carried out research with the new facility generating new knowledge about advanced materials.
(2) The Facility has enabled novel 3D characterisation to be carried out. New methods on 3D specimen preparation and in situ x-ray tomography are under development.
(3) The advanced 3D characterisation empowers the Researchers to investigate the links between materials processing, 3D microstructre and materials device performance, especially in the areas of battery science, 3D printing, advanced manufacturing and biomaterials.
(4) This is a new MIcroCT facility, but training programmes to train early career researchers (PhD students and PDRAs) are being developed. Such training will ensure their ability to integrate MIcroCT into any future research/job activities.
(5) Publications arising from work at the new Facility are starting to be published.
Exploitation Route This Facility will continue to operate after the funding comes to an end for at least another 10 years. It will input into many future UKRI research projects.
Sectors Aerospace

Defence and Marine


Food and Drink







including Industrial Biotechology

Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology


Description 2024 response The facility has attracted new academic users, and associated industries, over the last period from a range of disciplines within the University of Sheffield. These included academic Staff not only from the Faculty of Engineering (Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering) but also from other Faculties (e.g. Department of Geography) and the Advanced Manufacturing Group of the University of Sheffield, including the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Further regional impact was demonstrated with local SMEs (e.g. Magnomatics Limited in Sheffield) booking time on the equipment. The facility has been used to quantify material structures in 3D across a very broad range of products and applications including batteries, structural and functional composites, magnets, biomaterials, soils, and plants. It is expected that there will be significant growth in sustainable materials applications due to expansion of research in this topical area. The growing interest by internal and external users has required a long-term commitment by the Faculty of Engineering for support beyond the end of the grant. New technical staff are therefore currently being trained to take on external work as well as to provide support and training for internal researchers.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Construction,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Transport
Impact Types Societal


Description PhD studentship
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation Johnson Matthey 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2020 
End 10/2024
Description Battery Material Characterisation 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Characterisation of novel battery materials, including MicroCT and Electron Microscopy
Collaborator Contribution Technical development of new battery materials
Impact Work in progress.
Start Year 2019
Description Invited Talk - Diamond Light Source (April 2021) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave a presentation to researchers and other staff at the Diamond Light Source, which led to increased interest in the energy storage materials research field and possible collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
Description Sheffield Tomography Facility Website and Twitter Outreach 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Outreach
• In person outreach events have been unable to take place due to COVID pandemic
• Online events (including introductory information session for the new lab, lab opening) have taken place instead
• Social media has been a great resource for publicising the lab - we have set up a lab twitter account (@SheffTomography), website and the lab Experimental Officer Dr Ria Mitchell uses her own platforms on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to publicise the lab.
• Inclusion of the lab in university and departmental newsletters
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021,2022