University helps develop X-ray tomography facility

Manchester University is working with Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, to produce a world-class imaging facility.

This will allow researchers in many scientific fields to create high-quality 3D images of samples including engineering components, biomaterials, fossils, organic materials and energy devices such as fuel cells.

Due for completion in 2012, the X-ray Imaging and Coherence beamline (I13) at Diamond is designed for scientific users from biomedicine, materials science, geophysics, astrophysics and archaeology.

Its two branch lines – the ‘imaging’ and ‘coherence’ branches – will provide tools for non-destructive examination of internal features ranging from the micro to nano-length scale.

Diamond has entered into a seven-year collaboration with Manchester University to develop the imaging branch line, working together to discover, explore and exploit new science using synchrotron light.

The university will have substantial dedicated access to the facility in return for providing funds for capital staff and operational costs towards the beamline.

Manchester University’s Prof Phil Withers said: ‘With our own dedicated imaging suite at Manchester, the Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility, which was officially opened in June last year, Manchester was looking to expand its imaging capabilities and the partnership with Diamond provided the perfect opportunity.’

The university says there are many applications for the 3D X-ray tomography that will be performed on I13. It can be used to characterise the internal structure of porous materials such as trabecular bone or metal foams, or to determine the size and shape of cracks and other defects inside components such as aircraft parts, where unexpected failures could have catastrophic results.

Because it is non-destructive, X-ray tomography can be used to study the internal structure of precious and unique objects in archaeology and palaeontology, such as insects fossilised in amber.