Australia’s largest cabinet Micro-CT scanner, unveiled at Flinders University Tonsley campus, will enable South Australian researchers to scan large human bones, ancient fossils, and machine parts with unprecedented levels of detail and reveal fresh insights about the makeup of 3D objects.
The state-of-the-art piece of equipment enables 3D-scanning of large and heavy samples weighing up to 50kg, including human limbs, prosthesis devices, engineered structures, batteries, plants, fossils, vertebrates, and 3D composite materials.
Developed by Nikon Metrology (UK), the 4.5 tonne scanner will also enable custom-developed experimental systems to be placed inside, to test human limbs, biomedical devices, and engineered components.
The Large Volume Micro-CT system is funded by a $1,052,389 project ARC Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities grant (LIEF, LE180100136) including $495,000 co-investment by Flinders University, the University of Adelaide, and the South Australian Museum.
Project lead, Associate Professor Egon Perilli, says the large volume Micro-CT scanner will enable practical applications such as scanning for defects in 3D printed parts and manufactured parts without damaging irreplaceable specimens and prototypes.
“X-ray micro-computed tomography (Micro-CT) is one of the most versatile non-destructive investigative techniques with applications spanning the biomedical, engineering, palaeontology, biology, geoscience fields and more.”
“The internal micro structural details of large samples we can now image with this system will open up a world of new possibilities, which until now was restricted to only small specimens or excised biopsies.”
The size of the gantry will also allow experimental testing rigs to be placed into the system, for mechanical testing of femurs or biomedical devices, during the scan, to study structure-function relationships and identify structural weak points.
“For example, we will be able to test orthopaedic implants before they are inserted in limbs, to study the bone-implant interface; or precious fossils with sediments that can’t be removed without damaging their integrity and stored specimens from the South Australian Museum.”
“When combined with finite element analysis, the system will also allow for unlimited computer simulations of mechanical tests, which is valuable when you’re dealing with irreplaceable specimens.”
“This large volume cabinet Micro-CT scanner makes it possible for my team and collaborators to study bone and joint structures from the whole-organ to micro-scale, by allowing for specimens as large as human limbs, together with their mechanical behaviour.”
Emeritus Professor Roger Seymour, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences, says the new large volume Micro-CT scanner means that researchers can now examine larger animals, including dolphins.
“We discovered that the size of arteries indicates the rate of blood flow in them, so we are able to estimate metabolic rates in living and extinct animals from CT-scans of their arterial systems. For brains, higher blood flow is related to greater cognitive ability.”
Senior Research Scientist of Herpetology from the South Australian Museum, Dr Mark Hutchinson, says The South Australian Museum’s studies of the anatomy and evolution of living and fossil animals have used micro-CT scanning to get never before seen details, but only from small-sized lizards, snakes, bats and frogs.
“We can now expand these studies to larger species because the new large-volume scanner will for the first time enable us to get the same amount of detail that we have only been able to get from small species.”