Introducing the CVL Energy Materials X-ray project

The NeCTAR CVL Energy Materials X-Ray (CVL EM X-Ray) sub-project is well underway towards making the Mango software suite more widely available and accessible to the Australian research community, and provide AMMRT CT researchers with access to a sophisticated, scalable 3D image processing toolkit. The sub-project builds on the expertise and reputation of the ANU's Department of Applied Mathematics in the Research School of Physics and Engineering. The Department has an experienced blend of theoreticians and experimentalists working together to develop micro-CT (micro-computed tomography) instruments and software for quantitative analysis of large 3D data sets.

Micro-CT is a development of medical X-ray CT scanning with a resolution 1000 times higher, so that the internal structure of materials can be mapped in extraordinary fidelity at the micron scale. The ANU's Heliscan (TM) technology allows researchers to generate higher quality CT scans at faster rates and at larger length scales than conventional CT approaches. The Mango software suite complements the Heliscan CT instruments by providing scalable processing of large CT and other volumetric datasets.  The high fidelity of the acquired images, along with sophisticated image registration software allows for the merging of datasets from multiple image modalities, greatly enhancing the value of the images.

ANU micro-CT image

A close-up of the Heliscan micro-CT system, designed and built at the ANU

The ANU micro-CT facility is being significantly upgraded with funding from a number of sources, but particularly through the Education Infrastructure Fund (EIF).  The result of this upgrade will be the ANU CTLab, and AMMRF node with several X-ray CT instruments covering a wide range of length scales, as well as a SEM-EDS instrument. The CVL Energy Materials project is a critical stepping-stone in providing users of the CTLab facility with convenient and powerful software for the analysis of their data

Research at the facility is directed towards the fundamental understanding of disordered and porous materials with the aim of predicting properties via imaging, visualisation, theoretical and computational modelling.

The technology that is being made available through the CVL will have an impact in a range of scientific domains. For example:

  • Biomedical engineers from Queensland University of Technology that are studying tissue engineering will improve their analyse of images showing bone regrowth around polymer scaffolds.
  • Researchers in the School of Petroleum Engineering at the University of New South Wales will have improved access to the Mango software tools that are already used extensively within the School in the study of the transport and mechanical properties of porous rocks.
  • Researchers from Geoscience Australia, The University of Queensland and other members of the Australian National Low Emission Coal (ANLEC) R&D program will be able to better integrate the results of imaging studies into the characterisation of several geologic formations, to improve the understanding of their CO­2 trapping potential.
  • Environmental engineers at Oregon State University who are investigating capillary trapping in soils and unconsolidated materials­ will be able to scale up their analysis of image data acquired at the Advanced Photon Source synchrotron in the US.
  • Soil scientists from the Helmholtz centre for Environmental Research in Germany will take advantage of improved techniques for object skeletonisation and partitioning to improve their characterisation of soil pore systems.
CVL EM X-Ray coral flow streamlinesCVL EMXRay Zzoom withscale
A 2mm cube of coral showing simulation of fluid flow through the pores.  Due to it¹s high permeability this coral was subsequently selected as a bone scaffold in facial reconstructive surgery.
A single slice and enlargement through a micro-tomogram of a 2 mm fragment of balsa wood.

By hosting the ANU CT-data analysis services within the NeCTAR network of nodes Australian researchers will gain national, uniform access to data resources and tools that would not otherwise have been available to them.