Laboratory Opportunities Provided by Dynamic CT Imaging

X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) has rapidly developed into a vital imaging method, allowing for an improved understanding of the influence of environments in the development of specimens. Dynamic CT is enabling genuinely in situ investigations which range from the load testing of bones and implants to plant growth.

Thanks to its non-destructive nature, micro-CT offers an ideal means of acquiring 3D internal data of a single sample over a period of time. The process of obtaining different scans over a period of time is commonly referred to as ‘4D’ imaging, but this can be specifically described as time-lapse or dynamic CT.

Time-lapse is beneficial when working with samples which experience slow change, and in instances where a longer imaging time is necessary. Dynamic CT can also be utilized in the examination of shorter events, with applicable timeframes ranging from a few seconds to several hours.  

Dynamic CT results can highlight the way in which materials change under differing external conditions or environments, over short periods. In some cases, the sample itself may form or deform independently (experiencing growing, swelling, drying, etc.). In other instances, external parameters may be changed through the use of in situ stages, enabling alterations in factors such as pressure or temperature (i.e., tension or compression).

Dynamic CT is particularly useful in cases that employ external manipulation, offering the only means of accurately observing a change in an uninterrupted manner.

It is possible to use time-lapse in these applications, but the stimulus would need to be paused at specific points throughout the scan. Pauses would likely result in non-ideal experimental conditions while creating potentially catastrophic gaps in data collection during crucial time ranges.

Synchrotron facilities have been at the vanguard of CT improvements, delivering exceptional image quality coupled with high temporal and spatial resolution. While spatial resolution and image quality have been substantially improved in the laboratory, these advances are often at the expense of temporal resolution, resulting in, for example, slow scan times.

TESCAN has developed the technology to perform dynamic CT coupled with real in situ experiments, maintaining temporal resolutions of under 10 seconds whilst  simultaneously ensuring sufficient image quality and resolution.

While the popularity of micro CT and 4D imaging continues to rapidly expand, dynamic CT experiments continue to be rare, particularly in lab settings. This is likely due to the challenges presented at each stage of this process, including the acquisition, reconstruction, visualization, and analysis steps.

With these issues in mind, TESCAN has developed dedicated hardware and software tools to enable the execution of dynamic CT experiments using an intuitive, streamlined workflow, therefore making this useful technique more practical and approachable in the lab.

Dynamic imaging of germinating seeds

This article outlines the challenges and innovations which have resulted in advances in 4D imaging, particularly dynamic CT. These advances are outlined via an examination of germinating cress seeds with a TESCAN DynaTOM CT system.

The DynaTOM is a unique gantry-based system which allows the sample to remain stationary while the detector and source rotate around it. This architecture has been specifically designed to perform dynamic CT on delicate samples or intricate in situ experiments.


LogoFounded in 1991 by a group of managers and engineers from Tesla with its electron microscopy history starting in the 1950s, today TESCAN is a globally renowned supplier of Focused Ion Beam workstations, Scanning Electron Microscopes and Optical Microscopes. TESCAN’s innovative solutions and collaborative nature with its customers have won it a leading position in the world of nano- and microtechnology.

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Last updated: Apr 24, 2023 at 9:41 AM


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