UK university to develop unique X-ray imaging and coherence facility

(Nanowerk News) The University of Manchester has joined forces with Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron science facility, to produce a world-class imaging facility.
This will allow researchers in a wide range of fields to create high-quality 3D images of samples including engineering components, biomaterials, fossils, organic materials and energy devices such as fuel cells.
Due for completion in 2012, the X-ray Imaging and Coherence beamline at Diamond, I13, is designed for a broad range of scientific users from biomedicine, materials science, geophysics, astrophysics and archaeology.
Aerial view of Diamond Light Source
Aerial view of Diamond Light Source. I13 can be seen in the foreground stretching away from the main synchrotron building.
Its two branch lines – called the 'imaging' and 'coherence' branches – will provide tools for non-destructive examination of internal features ranging from the micro (a few thousandths of a millimetre) to the nano (a few millionths of a millimetre) length scale.
Diamond has entered into a seven-year collaboration with The University of Manchester to develop the imaging branch line, working together to discover, explore and exploit new science using synchrotron light.
Professor Phil Withers is leading the X-ray Imaging at the University and is a longstanding synchrotron user. He said: "The late Professor Alan Gilbert [the inaugural President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester] visited Diamond and was struck by the world-class standard of the facility, and he was keen for Manchester to be directly involved.
"With our own dedicated imaging suite at Manchester, the Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility, which was officially opened in June last year, Manchester was looking to expand its imaging capabilities and the partnership with Diamond provided the perfect opportunity."
The 3D X-ray tomography that will be performed on I13 has many applications. It can be used to characterise the internal structure of porous materials such as trabecular bone or metal foams, or to determine the size and shape of cracks and other defects inside components such as aircraft parts, where unexpected failures could have catastrophic results.
The funding from Manchester includes capital, staff and operational costs towards the I13 imaging branch beamline in return for substantial dedicated access.
The staff financed through this collaboration will accelerate the completion of the I13 imaging branch and ensure its operation for the next seven years. The effort is further supported by a team from The University of Manchester, situated on site to drive forward the research.
The experimental hutches for I13 are currently under construction but the optics hutches are already receiving X-rays from the synchrotron ready for testing. Following the inaugural board meeting Prof. Colin Bailey, Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at The University of Manchester, ran the first test sample on the beamline with great success.
He said: "The partnership with Diamond will allow the leading academics at The University of Manchester to push the boundaries of science using synchrotron light.
"The facilities at Diamond complement our current imaging facilities at Manchester, including our new Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility. I look forward to the exciting, world-leading scientific discoveries that will result from this partnership with Diamond."
Chief Executive of Diamond, Prof. Gerd Materlik, says, "This is great news for Diamond and the I13 beamline. In the current economic climate, creating a new model of interaction with one of our university partners, and financial support such as this, is extremely important in terms of fully exploiting our facilities.
I13 is part of the second phase of construction at Diamond which is due to be complete in 2012. Funding for Phase III, the design and construction of a further ten beamlines, was announced by the government in October this year and will bring the total number of experimental stations to 32 when complete in 2017, enhancing the capabilities of the Diamond synchrotron science facility.
Source: University of Manchester