Development of a lab-scale, high-resolution, tube-generated X-ray computed-tomography system for three-dimensional (3D) materials characterization

J. C E Mertens, J. J. Williams, Nikhilesh Chawla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


The design and construction of a modular high resolution X-ray computed tomography (XCT) system is highlighted in this paper. The design approach is detailed for meeting a specified set of instrument performance goals tailored towards experimental versatility and high resolution imaging. The XCT tool is unique in the detector and X-ray source design configuration, enabling control in the balance between detection efficiency and spatial resolution. The system package is also unique: The sample manipulation approach implemented enables a wide gamut of in situ experimentation to analyze structure evolution under applied stimulus, by optimizing scan conditions through a high degree of controllability. The component selection and design process is detailed: Incorporated components are specified, custom designs are shared, and the approach for their integration into a fully functional XCT scanner is provided. Custom designs discussed include the dual-target X-ray source cradle which maintains position and trajectory of the beam between the two X-ray target configurations with respect to a scintillator mounting and positioning assembly and the imaging sensor, as well as a novel large-format X-ray detector with enhanced adaptability. The instrument is discussed from an operational point of view, including the details of data acquisition and processing implemented for 3D imaging via micro-CT. The performance of the instrument is demonstrated on a silica-glass particle/hydroxyl-terminated-polybutadiene (HTPB) matrix binder PBX simulant. Post-scan data processing, specifically segmentation of the sample's relevant microstructure from the 3D reconstruction, is provided to demonstrate the utility of the instrument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-48
Number of pages13
JournalMaterials Characterization
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • 3D materials science
  • Composite
  • Multiscale
  • X-ray microtomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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