Comparing Benchtop X-ray Microscopes
There are many advantages of using X-rays microscopes for imaging applications. Unlike conventional optical microscopes, X-ray microscopes offer the potential for element selectivity in imaging, excellent resolution and sensitivity and very high contrast.
X-ray microscopes can be used to image thicker samples than techniques such as electron microscopy. Using X-ray microscopes for imaging can also help reduce sample preparation times as specimens do not require staining or fixing. X-ray microscopes are adaptable for 3D imaging of specimens by splitting the X-ray beams into multiple directions. This means a benchtop microscope can achieve similar results to a whole CT scanner.
Applications of X-ray microscopes include medicine, materials science, manufacturing and precious samples that require non-destructive imaging techniques. As the diffractive limit for X-ray light is much smaller than for optical microscopes, X-ray microscopes can achieve much better spatial resolutions than convenient optical methods for these applications. Depending on the imaging method used, X-ray microscopes can also be used to reconstruct full 3D structures.
What is a benchtop X-ray microscope?
A benchtop X-ray microscope is an X-ray microscope system small enough to fit into a standard laboratory. Many X-ray microscope experiments are performed using synchrotron, and more recently, free-electron laser facilities where the energy tunability of the source and excellent spatial coherence can be useful for achieving excellent spatial resolution and dealing with complex multielement samples.1
The problem with using advanced light sources with X-ray microscopes is convenience and ease of access. There are limited numbers of such facilities and benchtop X-ray microscopes offer a sufficiently powerful and convenient alternative capable of performing transmission X-ray or scanning X-ray microscopy measurements among other kinds.
Most benchtop instruments are composed of an X-ray source, an imaging detector and any optics necessary to control and shape the beam in an X-ray microscope. Modern X-ray microscopes that can fit on a typical lab bench can now offer X-ray energies in both the soft and hard X-ray regime and can be capable of performing full 3D imaging on samples.
One way of acquiring 3D images is to record ‘slices’ of the object being imaged and then reconstruct these into the full 3D structure. Objects can either be scanned by moving the X-rays around the object like a hospital CT scanner or by rotating the sample in place. For slice imaging, the highly focused X-rays transmit or penetrate through a sample to form a projection image on a detector. A reconstruction algorithm then converts these projections into virtual cross sections or slices through the object showing its internal structure
Blue Scientific Microscopes
Blue Scientific offers the full range of Bruker X-ray micro-CT instruments for 3D X-ray imaging in your own laboratory. The SkyScan series covers the specifications for a range of applications, including automated, self-optimizing instruments for high throughput workflows (the SkyScan 1275) to very high resolution instruments capable of providing > 2600 virtual slices in a single scan (the SkyScan 1272).2
Blue Scientific offers the full range of Bruker X-ray micro-CT instruments for 3D X-ray imaging in your own laboratory. The SkyScan series covers the specifications for a range of applications, including automated, self-optimizing instruments for high throughput workflows (the SkyScan 1275) to very high resolution instruments capable of providing > 2600 virtual slices in a single scan (the SkyScan 1272),2 using the brand new CMOS detector design is recognized as a gold standard for high throughput X-ray microscope work and it is possible to also install a carousel for automated sample loading.
The SkyScan 1273 is a benchtop high energy instrument that is ideal for applications such as anthropology as it can take samples as large as a human skull.
For medical applications, the 1275 is a particularly compact and affordable X-ray microscope and can achieve 5 micron resolution in just five minutes. The instrument is user-friendly and takes advantage of the lack of sample preparation techniques required for X-ray microscopy to provide rapid 3D reconstructions in a seamless and painless imaging process.
The SkyScan 1278 is one of the fastest live 3D scanners available. As well as an excellent efficiency saver, this also reduces the X-ray dose given, making it suitable for live imaging. For higher resolution 3D imaging applications, the 1276 offers higher resolution. The 1275 and 1272 alternatively use rotating samples to record slice images for reconstructions and are both very efficient instruments.
Unsure about what X-ray microscope best suits your application? Get in touch with us today to find out which of our high performance SkyScan instruments is the right one for your application and how X-ray microscopy could help provide detailed 3D information of your samples, fast.
- Vagovič, P., Sato, T., Mikeš, L., Mills, G., Graceffa, R., Mattsson, F., Villanueva-Perez, P., Ershov, A., Faragó, T., Uličný, J., Kirkwood, H., Letrun, R., Mokso, R., Zdora, M.-C., Olbinado, M. P., Rack, A., Baumbach, T., Schulz, J., Meents, A., … Mancuso, A. P. (2019). Megahertz x-ray microscopy at x-ray free-electron laser and synchrotron sources. Optica, 6(9), 1106. https://doi.org/10.1364/optica.6.001106
- Blue Scientific (2022), https://blue-scientific.com/bruker-micro-ct/, accessed April 2022