The device could lead to advances in a range of areas, such as healthcare in furthering, for instance, the understanding of conditions such as osteoporosis, the development of better construction materials, improved oil extraction methods and even the study of fossils.
Like a number of other microscopes, the new microscope harnesses X-rays to provide information about an object's internal structure down to micron scale. What makes it unique, however, is its innovative use of a technique called 'time delay integration', which enables it to generate much better images of larger objects than any other device. This means that microscopic structure can be studied with greater accuracy.
With EPSRC funding, a multi-disciplinary team drawn from six UK universities has been developing and utilising the microscope, which, although similar to the CT scanners used in healthcare, can view things in much greater detail.
X-ray microscopes can produce 3-d internal pictures of an object by taking a large number of 2-d images from different angles. However, the new microscope's combining of this technique with time delay integration is unique. Through averaging out imperfections in the image across all pixels, this approach enables the microscope to produce clearer and bigger pictures than previously possible.
Professor Jim Elliott of Queen Mary, University of London led the project. "As well as developing these microscopes to study subtle variations in internal structure, a main aim of ours is to work with the wider scientific community to identify problems where they could make a real contribution," he says. "There's no limit to what it would be useful or interesting to look at."
COMPAMED.de; Source: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council