X-ray microtomography, like tomography and x-ray computed tomography, uses x-rays to create cross-sections of a physical object that can be used to recreate a virtual model (3D model) without destroying the original model. The prefix micro- (symbol: µ) is used to indicate that the pixel sizes of the cross-sections are in the micrometre range. These pixel sizes have also resulted in the terms micro–computed tomography, micro-CT, µCT, high-resolution x-ray tomography, and similar terms. All of these names generally represent the same class of instruments. Virtually all tomography today is computed tomography.
Micro-CT has applications both in medical imaging and in industrial computed tomography. In general, there are two types of scanner setups. In one setup, the X-ray source and detector are typically stationary during the scan while the sample/animal rotates. The second setup, much more like a clinical CT scanner, is gantry based where the animal/specimen is stationary in space while the X-ray tube and detector rotate around. These scanners are typically used for small animals (in vivo scanners), biomedical samples, foods, microfossils, and other studies for which minute detail is desired.
The first X-ray microtomography system was conceived and built by Jim Elliott in the early 1980s. The first published X-ray microtomographic images were reconstructed slices of a small tropical snail, with pixel size about 50 micrometers.
- Imaging system
- Fan beam reconstruction
- The fan-beam system is based on a one-dimensional (1D) X-ray detector and an electronic X-ray source, creating 2D cross-sections of the object. Typically used in human Computed tomography systems.
- Cone beam reconstruction
- The cone-beam system is based on a 2D X-ray detector (camera) and an electronic X-ray source, creating projection images that later will be used to reconstruct the image cross-sections.
- Open/Closed systems
- Open X-ray system
- In an open system, X-rays may escape or leak out, thus the operator must stay behind a shield, have special protective clothing, or operate the scanner from a distance or a different room. Typical examples of these scanners are the human versions, or designed for big objects.
- Closed X-ray system
- In a closed system, X-ray shielding is put around the scanner so the operator can put the scanner on a desk or special table. Although the scanner is shielded, care must be taken and the operator usually carries a dose meter, since X-rays have a tendency to be absorbed by metal and then re-emitted like an antenna. Although a typical scanner will produce a relatively harmless volume of X-rays, repeated scannings in a short timeframe could pose a danger.
- Closed systems tend to become very heavy because lead is used to shield the X-rays. Therefore, the smaller scanners only have a small space for samples.
3D image reconstruction
Because microtomography scanners offer isotropic, or near isotropic, resolution, display of images does not need to be restricted to the conventional axial images. Instead, it is possible for a software program to build a volume by 'stacking' the individual slices one on top of the other. The program may then display the volume in an alternative manner.
Volume rendering is a technique used to display a 2D projection of a 3D discretely sampled data set, as produced by a microtomography scanner. Usually these are acquired in a regular pattern (e.g., one slice every millimeter) and usually have a regular number of image pixels in a regular pattern. This is an example of a regular volumetric grid, with each volume element, or voxel represented by a single value that is obtained by sampling the immediate area surrounding the voxel.
Where different structures have similar threshold density, it can become impossible to separate them simply by adjusting volume rendering parameters. The solution is called segmentation, a manual or automatic procedure that can remove the unwanted structures from the image.
- E.g. spray nozzle
- E.g. plastic foam
- E.g. detecting defects in a diamond and finding the best way to cut it.
- E.g. piece of wood to visualize year periodicity and cell structure
- E.g. concrete after loading.
- E.g. bentonic foraminifers
- E.g. locating stardust-like particles in aerogel using X-ray techniques
- E.g. samples returned from asteroid 25143 Itokawa by the Hayabusa mission
- E.g. cigarettes
- Visualizing with blue and green or blue filters to see depth
- X-Ray Microtomography at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Elliott, J. C.; Dover, S. D. (1982). "X-ray microtomography". Journal of Microscopy 126 (2): 211. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2818.1982.tb00376.x.
- Mizutani, R; Suzuki, Y (2012). "X-ray microtomography in biology". Micron (Oxford, England : 1993) 43 (2–3): 104–15. doi:10.1016/j.micron.2011.10.002. PMID 22036251.
- Van De Kamp, T.; Vagovic, P.; Baumbach, T.; Riedel, A. (2011). "A Biological Screw in a Beetle's Leg". Science 333 (6038): 52. doi:10.1126/science.1204245. PMID 21719669.
- Gerard van Dalen, Han Blonk, Henrie van Aalst, Cris Luengo Hendriks 3-D Imaging of Foods Using X-Ray Microtomography. G.I.T. Imaging & Microscopy (March 2003), pp. 18–21
- Jurewicz, A. J. G.; Jones, S. M.; Tsapin, A.; Mih, D. T.; Connolly, H. C., Jr.; Graham, G. A. (2003). "Locating Stardust-like Particles in Aerogel Using X-Ray Techniques". Lunar and Planetary Science. XXXIV.
- Tsuchiyama, A.; Uesugi, M.; Matsushima, T.; Michikami, T.; Kadono, T.; Nakamura, T.; Uesugi, K.; Nakano, T.; Sandford, S. A. (2011). "Three-Dimensional Structure of Hayabusa Samples: Origin and Evolution of Itokawa Regolith". Science 333 (6046): 1125–8. doi:10.1126/science.1207807. PMID 21868671.
- MicroComputed Tomography: Methodology and Applications
- Synchrotron and non synchrotron X-ray microtomography threedimensional representation of bone ingrowth in calcium phosphate biomaterials
- Microfocus X-ray Computer Tomography in Materials Research
- Locating Stardust-like particles in aerogel using x-ray techniques
- 3-D Imaging of Foods Using X-Ray Microtomography
- Use of micro CT to study kidney stones
- Application of the Gatan X-ray Ultramicroscope (XuM) to the Investigation of Material and Biological Samples[dead link]
- 3D Synchrotron X-ray microtomography of paint samples