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Manchester to co-host research facility for lab-based X-ray computed tomography

02 Jul 2020

A new National Research Facility (NRF) in lab-based X-ray computed tomography is set to launch in November this year

X-Ray CT

The NRF will provide access and support for both academia and industry, embracing both first-time users and more experienced researchers running cutting-edge 3D imaging experiments.

Starting on 1 November 2020, the X-ray CT NRF represents a £10m investment over five years from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will bring together the capability of existing facilities from The University of Manchester, University of Southampton, University College London (UCL), University of Warwick, and Diamond Light Source. Together, these five partners provide a unique and diverse shared capability to the UK.

The lab X-ray CT NRF Hub will be hosted within the Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials at Manchester, adopting a similar operational framework and benefiting from business support to help grow the user base. Alongside this, Royce has dedicated space on the second floor of its new hub building to host a Data Visualisation and Analysis Support Centre to support novice users.

The creation of the lab X-ray CT NRF across the 5 partners will enable expansion of X-ray CT capacity and expertise to support investigations in biomedical and life sciences, engineering and physical sciences, environmental sciences, humanities and cultural heritage. The new lab will support a range of industrial sectors, from additive manufacturing to civil engineering.

The NRF will also provide training and funded access to imaging facilities at the partner sites, as well as support and expertise to set up experiments and analyse the 3D data. The new equipment will ensure capacity as well as delivering unique new capabilities in X-ray CT.

The lab X-ray CT NRF will be led by Director Dr Tim Burnett at The University of Manchester, who commented: “There is so much potential for X-ray imaging to add enormous value to our research and industrial challenges. I am delighted that this National Research Facility will open up access to this equipment but also provide the training, support and skills needed to help everyone exploit this technology. I am very excited about our partnership with Southampton, UCL, Warwick, and Diamond Light Source, which will allow us to bring the latest developments in large sample imaging, metrology, phase contrast imaging and multiscale and fast in situ experimentation to the widest possible number of users.”

Dr Andrew Wright, Head of Capital Infrastructure at EPSRC, said: “The X-ray CT facility will be a key component of EPSRC’s network of national research facilities, which support our research base to develop cutting-edge techniques and make advances with societal and economic impact.

“It will provide researchers from across academia and industry with the tools they need to break new ground in a wide range of fields, driving excellence and enhancing scientific productivity.”

About X-ray computed tomography

X-ray computed tomography (XCT) produces 3D images showing internal and external features at microscopic detail, all achieved non-destructively. XCT can characterise objects as they are tested mechanically, heated or exposed to combinations of external conditions, simulating real-world environments, such as manufacturing of materials, geological processes, or movement of a knee joint. These in situ tests can be used to understand complex changes taking place inside things which can allow us, for example, to see a failure process happening, so that it can be designed against in the future. 

About the lab X-ray CT NRF

By bringing together and building on the complementary strengths of 5 of the country’s leading X-ray CT facilities, the NRF will position itself and the UK as a world leader for X-ray imaging. It will provide access to a suite of conventional and unique imaging capabilities, in situ environments and the resources needed for effective visualisation and analysis of the data, all with expert technical support.

The facility will also train the next generation of scientists and engineers, creating a skilled pipeline of personnel who will be able to exploit this technology and its insight in future academic and industrial careers.