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NDSU receives grant for new 3-D X-ray imaging system

Published: 10 August 2012

NDSU has been awarded a $482,807 grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Biological Infrastructure for a versatile state-of-the-art X-ray inspection and computed tomography system. The principal investigator for the Major Research Instrumentation grant is Kendra Greenlee, assistant professor of biological sciences. Co-principal investigators are Scott Payne, assistant director of the Electron Microscopy Center, and Jayma Moore, laboratory manager of the Electron Microscopy Center.

The computed tomography system, also known as a microCT system, will allow thorough external and internal evaluation of intact objects up to about 30 square centimeters and 25 pounds, not otherwise possible without permanent damage. Like computed tomography, or “CAT scanning,” microCT equipment acquires successive X-ray image slices of an object. Once the images are obtained, the microCT software can manipulate them to provide highly detailed information: digital 3-D reconstruction, exterior and interior measurements, density analysis, defect inspection and surface rendering for finite element analysis.

Nondestructive testing has wide-ranging research and commercial applications. With resolution in the sub-micron range, microCT bridges the imaging gap between the resolution of light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy.

Also funded was a lyophilizer, or freeze-dryer, which will be used for preparing biological samples for microCT analysis. Greenlee, a National Science Foundation CAREER scientist, studies the internal gas-exchange system of caterpillars – work for which she currently must travel to Illinois in order to use facilities at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. “Having this equipment here at NDSU will benefit not only my research and that of several other researchers on campus, but this makes NDSU a regional center for others who are interested in analyzing samples with microCT,” Greenlee said. “In addition, this award speaks very highly of Moore and Payne’s vision and dedication to increasing the services and capacity of our Electron Microscopy Center.”

The new microCT system will contribute to comprehensive imaging and analysis services along with the high-resolution analytical transmission electronic microscope obtained through National Science Foundation funding in 2008 and the field-emission scanning electron microscope and cross section polisher supported by the foundation in 2009. In 2006, an analytical scanning electron microscope system was received, involving Electron Microscopy Center personnel in four successful National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation proposals within six years. 

“In any given year, just a small percentage of proposals are federally funded,” Payne said. “We’ve been able to relate a clear message about the quality of research scientists at NDSU and their need for new high-tech instrumentation to perform their work. The most effective way to utilize versatile but expensive equipment is through a university-supported core facility so that everyone has access.”

The microCT unit supplies faculty and students with a new and exciting research tool different from anything now available in the area. Anticipated users of the new instrumentation include partners from other universities and industry as well as NDSU scientists in a range of disciplines from biology and anthropology to engineering and chemistry. Twelve NDSU researchers from seven departments contributed project descriptions to the successful microCT proposal.

“State-of-the-art imaging and analysis also supports future grant requests by other NDSU scientists,” Moore said. “And the projects described for the microCT are exactly the kind of work that will help keep NDSU in the elite Research Universities/Very High Research Activity category from the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.”

Installation of the microCT system, to be housed at the Electron Microscopy Center, is expected in 2013.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.


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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013