Spotlight – Thorough analysis

Materials World magazine
1 Feb 2017

Trisha Rice, Vice President and General Manager of materials science solutions at Thermo Fisher Scientific, talks to Ellis Davies about the HeliScan MicroCT Imaging System. 

What is Thermo Fisher Scientific?

Thermo Fisher Scientific helps customers accelerate life sciences research, solve complex analytical challenges, improve patient diagnostics and increase laboratory productivity. Through our brands – Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific and Unity Lab Services – we offer a combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience and comprehensive support.

What is the purpose of the HeliScan MicroCT Imaging system?

HeliScan is an advanced micro computed tomography (microCT) system designed for materials science applications. It provides non-destructive, 3D visualisation of the internal structures of materials at the micrometer scale. 

How does the product work?

HeliScan rotates and translates the sample within an X-ray imaging system to reconstruct the sample’s 3D structure. Its helical trajectory, large X-ray cone angle, and interactive reconstruction procedure significantly improve the quality of the reconstructed 3D model. 

What advantages does it give?

Helical trajectories eliminate the stitching of artefacts that occur with conventional circular scans. The combination helical trajectory and use of a large X-ray cone angle provides better flux for faster image acquisition and avoids geometrical distortion. Iterative reconstruction allows us to correct for known movement artefacts such as source drift, mechanical imperfections of the stage or sample movement during scanning by introducing data into the reconstruction algorithm. 

HeliScan allows so called “region of interest” (ROI) scanning in a fully automated way by first detecting the contours of the sample, then automatically positioning it close to the X-ray source for a fast, low-resolution scan. Based on the scan, the user can select a ROI then acquire a high-resolution scan. The ROI can consist of the full sample, a partial height of the sample keeping the full diameter or any region within the sample, on- or off-axis, or multiple regions combined. After the reconstruction, the virtual 3D volume can be visualised and analysed further by Avizo 3D data visualisation and analysis software.

Could you explain the ‘multi-scale, multi-modal’ workflow?

HeliScan is a critical component of a multi-scale, multi-modal workflow, which may begin with micrometre-scale imaging in the HeliScan MicroCT, progress through nanometer-scale imaging with, for example, the Helios DualBeam (focused ion beam and scanning electron microscope), and lead, ultimately, to atomic-scale imaging in a Titan transmission electron microscope (TEM). When objects are imaged across these varied modes and then combined, it can provide a better and more detailed understanding of a material’s composition.

What can the machine be used for?

It is suited for imaging a variety of types and sizes of samples, such as polymers (including those that are fibre reinforced), carbon, metals, manufactured parts (such as batteries) and even life science samples, such as bone, tissue, plants, and insects (both stained and non-stained).   

Materials scientists have used HeliScan to gain knowledge of the internal structures of a metal sample to improve the production techniques of additive manufacturing systems and to visualise the direction of fibres, such as in fibre reinforced polymers.

Highlights include non-destructive analysis, which preserves the specimen for further investigation with other techniques. Helical scanning technology, iterative reconstruction technique and wide cone-angle X-ray illumination to provide fast, distortion and artefact-free, low-noise results. The HeliScan also features proprietary dynamic autofocus and drift correction capabilities that significantly improve image resolution. Helical scanning permits efficient scanning of taller, more representative volumes, a fast, iterative reconstruction technique that uses a multi-grid approach to generate a mathematically accurate 3D model of the sampled volume and the use of Avizo 3D data visualization and analysis software, which provides powerful tools for exploring and characterising reconstructed 3D structures.

How large can the materials analysed be?

Any sample that transmits and absorbs X-rays can be analysed. The sample size can vary from 1–200mm in diameter and up to 195mm in height (not dependent on the diameter). The diameter defines the resolution. 

Could you explain ‘stitching’ and the negative effects it can have on samples?

When scanning larger volumes, the user must put together (stitch) several scans while using conventional circular trajectories. In this area where the scans have been pieced together, there will be stitching-induced artefacts due to pixel shifting. HeliScan’s helical trajectory approach scans the sample in a single continuous sweep to avoid stitching (and artefacts). It also provides faster scanning of larger volumes compared to multi-scan circular methods. 

JPK launches the OT-AFM Combi-System

JPK Instruments, Germany, has launched the world’s first system to provide both atomic force microscopy (AFM) and optical tweezers (OT), the OT-AFM Combi-System (above). The product is a single inverted light microscope platform that pairs surface force measurement and imaging capabilities with the ability of OP to apply and measure small forces in 3D. JPK claims that this combination opens up a whole new spectrum of applications such as cellular response, cell-cell or cell matrix interactions, immune response and infection or bacterial processes. 

Zeiss introduces Celldiscover 7

Supporting life sciences research, Zeiss, Germany, has introduced a new system for automated microscopy, the Celldiscover 7. The system provides user-friendly automation features and the image quality of a classic inverted research microscope. Celldiscover 7 is an adaptable system with various incubation and detection options that can be altered to suit the needs of the research lab. It features multiple microscope cameras, including the ZEISS Axiocam 512 mono microscope camera with 12MP resolution and large field of view. 

The new system is controlled by ZEN imaging software, a dedicated software package from Zeiss. The software allows convenient experiment setup, large data acquisition and data processing in both 2D and 3D. Data gained with ZEN can be exported in a number of file formats, and is compatible with third party image analysis software.

Coltraco’s new analytical thickness gauge

Coltraco Ultrasonics, USA, has added the Portagauge 4 to its range of portable safety instrumentation. The multiple-echo device offers accurate metal-only corrosion readings, with an accuracy of ±0.1mm able to ignore surface coating such as paint. 

Coltraco claims the Portgauge 4 offers fast calibration with no zeroing required, making the product ideal for effective and efficient thickness gauging applications. A variety of sensor options and underwater variants allows for easy adaption to a variety of safety roles and requirements. The product features a large colour LCD Numeric Digital Display and a soft molded rubber case for durability and ease of use. 

Update for Olympus

Improving the reliability and precision of a range of applications, Olympus has launched its Stream 2.2 image analysis software package. The product is specifically designed to provide flexible options for materials science image and analysis needs, combining functionality for digital image acquisition, image processing, analysis and evaluation, image archiving, document management and report generation.

Stream 2.2 is compatible with Windows 10 and MS Office 2016 for creating reports, and works with all industrial microscopes. Olympus says that the new release makes tasks in metallography, electronics, coating measurement and particle analysis easier by improving usability, speed and functionality.

New lubricant analysis programme from ExxonMobil

Oil and gas company ExxonMobil, USA, has launched a new, mobile-enabled, used oil analysis service, Mobil Serv Lubricant Analysis. The new service is said to help operators identify equipment issues to avoid unscheduled maintenance. 

The service helps to enhance equipment reliability and reduce lubricant consumption, as well as extending oil drain intervals to improve safety. Mobil Serv uses scan-and-go technology with QR codes to streamline the oil analysis process, allowing customers to easily deliver used oil samples to ExxonMobil’s lab. They can then access results and customised equipment recommendations using a cloud-based app. The analysis programme offers 25 testing options, and is available to customers previously registered to Signumwill, the previous service.