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X-ray Imaging

X-ray imaging research at LAS encompasses technological, methodological, and experimental aspects of 2D, 3D and 4D mapping of materials structure from macroscopic down to sub-microscopic length scales. A particular emphasis of research activities is the development of fast, time-resolved methods which allow dynamic processes such as cell growth or materials processing to be investigated.


The main X-ray imaging research activities at LAS cover technical and methodological research and development in the fields of:

  • X-ray optics, X-ray Detectors
  • Hard X-ray Microscopy
  • 3D imaging
  • Biomimetics
  • Spectroscopic Imaging, Phase Imaging, Diffraction Imaging
  • Algorithms and Computational Approaches


and their application in the fields of life sciences:

  • 4D imaging of living organisms, hierarchical and correlated imaging of organisms, tissues, cells and structures, morphological dynamics, mutation etc.


and materials research:

  • in-situ & in-operando characterisation of materials for electronics and energy storage, light-weight high-performance materials, microsystems devices, multi-phase fluidics


X-ray imaging research at LAS makes use of facilities available both at the synchrotron radiation source ANKA at KIT, as well as at the ESRF. These facilities encompass beamlines for a wide range of tomographic and diffraction-imaging applications and off-line laboratories for  radiography and tomography in absorption contrast (distribution of the attenuation coefficients in 2D and 3D), propagation-based phase contrast imaging for low-Z and weakly absorbing materials, element-specific imaging at absorption edges for mapping the spatial distribution of specific elements. Further available techniques include full-field X-ray microdiffraction (Rocking Curve) imaging with a spatial resolution at or below the 1 µm scale for analysis and quantification of the spatial distribution of crystal lattice misorientations, defect densities and of local lattice quality in crystalline specimens, and tomography and laminography for 3D imaging of objects in absorption and phase contrast.


Example 1: Imaging of fossil beetles

Imaging LAS
imaging LAS
  1. Method: Non-invasive, fast white beam X-ray microtomography
  2. Data processing: Flat-, dark-field corrections, artefact filtering and tomographic reconstruction
  3. Image analysis: Segmentation of stone matrix and beetle, including exoskeletal parts and remains of soft tissue


A.H. Schwermann, T. dos Santos Rolo, M.S. Caterino, G. Bechly, H. Schmied, T. Baumbach, T. van de Kamp, “Preservation of three-dimensional anatomy in phosphatized fossil arthropods enriches evolutionary inference”, elife 5: e12129 (2016) doi: 10.7554/eLife.12129

Example 2: 4D Imaging of Xenopus Gastrulation via X-ray Phase Contrast Microtomography

  1. Method: Non-invasive in vivo, time-lapsed X-ray microtomography using single-distance, propagation-based phase contrast
  2. Data processing: Flat-, dark-field corrections, hot pixel removal, artefact filtering, phase retrieval and tomographic reconstruction
  3. Image analysis: Segmentation of cells, tissues and cavity volumes, flow-field calculation to visualize overall dynamics and to track individual cells



J. Moosmann, A. Ershov, V. Altapova, T. Baumbach, M.S., C. LaBonne, X. Xiao, J. Kashef, R. Hofmann, “X-ray phase-contrast in vivo microtomography probes new aspects of Xenopus gastrulation”, Nature 16;497(7449):374-7 (2013) doi: 10.1038/nature12116

Example 3: Influence of Gene Activity on Medaka Morphogenesis

Volume rendering of an adult medaka with segmented alimentary canal; (B-E) internal structure of the canal segments
Visualisation of blood vessels within the gut of the transgenic medaka line fli.
  1. Method: X-ray absorption microtomography combined with contrast agent staining of a whole adult fish
  2. Data processing: Flat-, dark-field corrections, hot pixel removal, artefact filtering, noise removal, tomographic reconstruction and mosaic imaging (six tomograms per sample)
  3. Image analysis: Automatic segmentation of organs and tissues, calculation and correlation of positions and sizes between different inbred strains


V. Weinhardt et al., to be published

Example 4:In vivo cine-tomography of fast-moving beetles

Imaging LAS
Imaging LAS
  1. Method: Ultrafast white beam X-ray cine-tomography
  2. Data processing: Flat-, dark-field corrections, artefact filtering and tomographic reconstruction
  3. Image analysis: volume rendering, joint segmentation, motion tracking, optical flow analysis

T. dos Santos Rolo, A. Ershov, T. van de Kamp, T. Baumbach, “In vivo X-ray cine-tomography for tracking morphological dynamics”, PNAS 111(11): 3921-3926 (2014) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308650111