Accurate stochastic reconstruction of heterogeneous microstructures by limited x-ray tomographic projections

Hechao Li, Shashank Kaira, James Mertens, Nikhilesh Chawla, Yang Jiao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


An accurate knowledge of the complex microstructure of a heterogeneous material is crucial for its performance prediction, prognosis and optimization. X-ray tomography has provided a nondestructive means for microstructure characterization in 3D and 4D (i.e. structural evolution over time), in which a material is typically reconstructed from a large number of tomographic projections using filtered-back-projection (FBP) method or algebraic reconstruction techniques (ART). Here, we present in detail a stochastic optimization procedure that enables one to accurately reconstruct material microstructure from a small number of absorption contrast x-ray tomographic projections. This discrete tomography reconstruction procedure is in contrast to the commonly used FBP and ART, which usually requires thousands of projections for accurate microstructure rendition. The utility of our stochastic procedure is first demonstrated by reconstructing a wide class of two-phase heterogeneous materials including sandstone and hard-particle packing from simulated limited-angle projections in both cone-beam and parallel beam projection geometry. It is then applied to reconstruct tailored Sn-sphere-clay-matrix systems from limited-angle cone-beam data obtained via a lab-scale tomography facility at Arizona State University and parallel-beam synchrotron data obtained at Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory. In addition, we examine the information content of tomography data by successively incorporating larger number of projections and quantifying the accuracy of the reconstructions. We show that only a small number of projections (e.g. 20–40, depending on the complexity of the microstructure of interest and desired resolution) are necessary for accurate material reconstructions via our stochastic procedure, which indicates its high efficiency in using limited structural information. The ramifications of the stochastic reconstruction procedure in 4D materials science are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-350
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • 4D materials
  • limited-angle projections
  • stochastic reconstruction
  • x-ray tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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