Strategic equipment bid: Ultra high-resolution 3D and 4D X-ray imaging

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Mech, Materials & Aerospace Engineering


The aim for this equipment is to facilitate a broad range of multi-disciplinary research, develop new collaborations and new research areas, working towards tackling national and global challenges in areas such as: manufacturing, energy materials and life sciences. The 3-dimensional, non-destructive characterisation of a wide range of materials, linked to ever more powerful computing power, is becoming increasingly important for the development of novel materials, devices, and healthcare technology and for developing new approaches to reduce the damaging effects of greenhouse emissions. X-ray computer tomography, known as CT-scanning, is a technique for displaying a representation of a cross section through a solid, 3-dimensional object using X-rays. Our proposal is to acquire the highest resolution, commercially-available CT-scanner, also known as the Zeiss Versa 620 X-ray Microscope. This equipment can analyse unusually large objects which allows it to be used to study whole devices and permits test rigs (e.g. sample heating or flow-through) to be placed in the sample chamber giving the equipment 4-dimensional capability (i.e. study the time-variable characteristics of material). The equipment also has the capability of determining the texture, i.e., the distribution of crystallographic orientations of a polycrystalline sample, for particles that are as small as 20 micrometres; this is called diffraction contrast tomography. The Versa 620 is the only commercially-available, laboratory-based CT-scanner that can undertake diffraction contrast tomography. The equipment ties in strongly with EPSRC's X-ray tomography roadmap and it will add to the UK's capacity, have the highest possible spatial resolution (able to image items as small as 500 nanometres), improve the geographic spread of CT equipment, further build the community of tomography users and provide a major addition for the UK's CT-scanner equipment base, via the diffraction contrast tomography capability. The University of Liverpool is an ideal base for the Versa 620 as there is ongoing major investment in materials and healthcare technology and there is a large number of identified users from the areas of engineering, materials science, chemistry, physics, energy technology, health and life sciences. The three main research domains that form the basis of the equipment bid are manufacturing, energy and healthcare technology. An example of research planned using the equipment in manufacturing will be to characterise additively manufactured, multi-material, high-value, whole metal and ceramic parts, for the automotive and aerospace industries. This will help understand the distribution of pores and grains and so improve the speed of manufacturing and properties of the part. An example of the research planned in healthcare technology will be to analyse the way that medical transplants interact with eyes in order to deliver healthy cells to the back of the eye. High resolution CT scanning is needed to image the way that implant and eye interact without having to dissect the eye. An example of the research planned for the energy area is to understand how high-pressure carbon dioxide interacts with sandstone rocks, in order to develop improved ways of undertaking carbon capture and storage in deep saline aquifers and old oil and gas fields to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The equipment will be available to external university users; for example researchers from the universities of Durham, Nottingham, Leeds, Cambridge and Sheffield all have plans to use the equipment. The equipment will also be available to undertake collaborative research with industrial partners from large companies to local SME's. The equipment will be managed through a committee looking after strategic issues, preferentially targeting high-impact research, and a separate committee looking after operational issues to ensure the smooth running of the facility.


10 25 50
publication icon
Behnsen J (2023) A Review of Particle Size Analysis with X-ray CT in Materials

publication icon
Crouch DJ (2022) An Optimized Method to Decellularize Human Trabecular Meshwork. in Bioengineering (Basel, Switzerland)