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Ultra fast X-ray imaging of scientific processes with on-line assessment and data-driven process control (BMBF Projects: 05K10VKE/05K10CKB)

Recent progress in X-ray optics, detector technology, and the tremendous increase of processing speed of commodity computational architectures has resulted in a paradigm shift in synchrotron X-ray imaging. The UFO project aims to enable a novel class of experiments combining intelligent detector systems, massive computational power, and sophisticated algorithms. The on-line assessment of sample dynamics makes active image-based control possible, resulting in unprecedented image quality and providing insights into previously inaccessible scientific phenomena.


UFO is an ambitious project with several technically innovative elements and a correspondingly high scientific potential. The technical requirements of the project are reflected in the expertise of the collaboration partners: the strength of the project team is the combination of institutes with a strong history in synchrotron radiation research and instrumentation combined with institutes specialized in fast data acquisition, trigger and slow-control systems, computer science and automatic control.


The UFO project has developed a demonstrator system for high-speed tomography which includes critical components such as computation infrastructure, reconstruction algorithms and detector systems, optimized to permit time-resolved tomography. Based on the results the final design of the UFO experimental station has been revised and several upgrades have been included to enable further imaging techniques. A flexible and fully automated detector system for a set of up to three complementary cameras has been designed, constructed and commissioned. A new platform for smart scientific cameras, the UFO-DAQ framework, has been realized. This is a unique rapid-prototyping environment to turn scientific image sensors into intelligent smart camera systems. Central features are the modular sensor interface, an open embedded processing framework and high-speed PCI Express links to the readout server. The UFO-DAQ framework seamlessly integrates into the UFO parallel computing framework. The UFO project has shown that high-end graphics processor units (GPUs) are an ideal platform for a new generation of online monitoring systems for synchrotron applications with high data rates. A powerful computing infrastructure based on GPUs and real-time storage has been developed. Optimized reconstruction algorithms reach a throughput of 1 GB/s with a single GPU server. Generalized reconstruction algorithms include also laminography with tilted rotation axis.



Fig. 1.

In vivo X-ray 4D cine-tomography experiment. (A) Photograph of S. granarius, dorsal view. (B) Experimental setup for ultrafast X-ray microtomography showing bending magnet (1), rotation stage (2), fixed specimen (3), and detector system (4). (C) Radiographic projection. (D) Three-dimensional rendering of the reconstructed volume with thorax cut open and revealing hip joints (arrows). (E) In vivo cine-tomographic sequence of moving weevil, overview scan.