School of GeoSciences

Experimental X-ray Microtomography

The Experimental facility is equipped with an x-ray Microtomography instrument designed and constructed in-house.

big foram

The X-ray µCT instrument was designed and built in-house to enable non-destructive 3D analysis of geological materials and for experimental applications that require time-resolved imaging of processes from experiments carried out on-line and off-line. The instrument consists of a dual (transmission/reflection) head 10-160kV x-ray source, a rotary air-bearing able and sample manipulator, and dual flat panel x-ray cameras (1MP Perkin Elmer XRD0822 or 4MP Rad-Icon Shad-o-cam). Once acquired, tomographic slice reconstruction is performed using Octopus™ software and visualisation and analysis of 3D and 4D data is performed using dedicated workstations running Avizo™ software.

Samples from 1mm diameter to ~10cm diameter and up to 4kg can be accommodated. Typical best geometric image resolution is 1/1000 to 1/2000 of the sample diameter for the Perkin Elmer and Rad-Icon cameras respectively. Standard data acquisition requires 30 mins to 3 hours per scan.

In addition to the instrument itself, the laboratory has developed and is continuing to develop x-ray transparent experimental environments to enable experimental studies of at elevated pressure and temperature (e.g. multiphase fluid flow in porous media, deformation and pressure solution). These environments are designed to be used both in house and at synchrotron beamlines.

The Instrument is operated as an SRF. Access is via discussion of analytical needs with Dr Ian Butler.

The EXP Technical Request form can be found here:






Figure: (Top left) X-ray transparent carbon fibre composite core flood cell situated on the µCT Instrument, (top right) 2D tomographic slices from porous dolomite, (bottom right) residual oil clusters trapped in porous dolomite after imbibition within the capillary and viscous flow regimes and (bottom left) trapped oil (red) in brine (blue) within a single pore before and after imbibition in the viscous flow regime.





Pak, T, Butler, IB, Geiger, S, Van Dijke, MIJ & Sorbie, KS 2015, 'Droplet fragmentation: 3D imaging of a previously unidentified pore-scale process during multiphase flow in porous media' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS, vol 112, pp. 1947 - 1952.

Brusatte, SL, Averianov, A, Sues, H, Muir, A & Butler, IB 2016, 'New tyrannosaur from the mid-Cretaceous of Uzbekistan clarifies evolution of giant body sizes and advanced senses in tyrant dinosaurs' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS, pp. 201600140., 10.1073/pnas.1600140113

Fusseis, F, Steeb, H, Xiao, X, Zhu, W, Butler, I, Elphick, S & Mäder, U 2014, 'A low-cost X-ray-transparent experimental cell for synchrotron-based X-ray microtomography studies under geological reservoir conditions' Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, vol 21, pp. 251-253.


Dr Ian Butler

Research Fellow in Experimental Geosciences

Contact details



Grant Institute,
The King's Buildings,
James Hutton Road,

Room: 105
Post Code