University of Helsinki researchers develop new 3D X-ray method

New direct tomography with chemical-bond contrast provides access to the molecular-level chemical environment and enables the imaging of soft materials.

Researchers at the Department of Physics at the University of Helsinki have developed a three-dimensional X-ray method that could revolutionise molecular-level research in science, technology and industry. The results have been published on the website of the authoritative Nature Materials magazine on 29 May and will also appear in the print version of the magazine in July.

According to the researchers, the new X-ray spectroscopy tomography method allows the mapping of chemical bonding in various types of structures, as well as the imaging of soft materials in three dimensions. “Here we introduce a new hard-X-ray spectroscopic tomography with a unique sensitivity to light elements. In this method, dark-field section images are obtained directly without any reconstruction algorithms. We apply the method to acquire the 3D structure and map the chemical bonding in selected samples relevant to materials science. The novel aspects make this technique a powerful new imaging tool, with an inherent access to the molecular-level chemical environment,” say the researchers in the introduction to their work.

The method requires large doses of radiation so its application to living tissues still requires development. Nevertheless, it can already give a great boost, for example, to the molecular-level research into new nanomaterials or meteorites that have fallen to the earth.

Sources: Tiede ja teknologia, Nature Materials