3D Colour X-ray Photographs Anyone?

In short

We’ve found an interesting article in UK online publication, The Engineer, detailing the work of scientists at Manchester University who have developed a camera that can be used to take 3D colour X-ray images, in near real time, without the need for a synchrotron X-ray source.


Prof Robert Cernik and colleagues from the university’s School of Materials, claim their technology can identify chemicals and compounds such as cocaine, semtex, precious metals or radioactive materials, even when concealed in large objects. Specifically relating to healthcare, the system could be used to detect abnormal tissue types from biopsy samples, but it seems the possibilities are pretty endless.

So how does it work? Well, here’s the bit where we all need to learn a few new words. According to Prof Cernik; “Current imaging systems such as spiral CAT scanners do not use all the information contained in the X-ray beam. We can use all the wavelengths present to give a colour X-ray image in a number of different imaging geometries.

‘This method is often called hyperspectral imaging because it gives extra information about the material structure at each voxel of the 3D image. This extra information can be used to fingerprint the material present at each point in a 3D image.’

As well as providing more information about the object being X-rayed, this new technique is claimed to decrease the time it takes to create a 3D image. Rather than building up lots of separate images, the new system creates the image in one scanning motion that now only takes several minutes, allowing the team to claim “near real time” image generation.

The image accompanying this article shows an X-ray of a USB dongle in which the team was able to identify the different elements and components inside the dongle by analysing the energy-sensitive radiographs and fluorescence patterns. The elements or components — bromine, barium, silver, tin and zirconium — were highlighted in different colours to identify them to the system operators.
Prof Cernik is now seeking industrial partners for collaborative projects to refine the X-ray technology for each specific application, including medical imaging.
Source: Manchester University, theengineer.co.uk
Full article here