Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering



Micro Computed Tomography (microCT) is a non-destructive technique that can provide high resolution 3D images of the internal structure of objects at the micron scale.  It is used in many fields including:

  • Biological specimen analysis
  • Biomedical research and tissue engineering
  • Archaeology, heritage and conservation
  • Earth sciences and geology
  • Civil and chemical engineering
  • Forensic science
  • Product quality control

In all cases, it provides unparalleled imaging information that can be used to characterise samples and understand the interpretation of complementary data, such as optical microscopy and spectroscopic techniques.

UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering has recently upgraded its microCT system and wishes to make it accessible to staff and students across UCL to help supplement ongoing research and stimulate new studies.  The information provided on this page describes the system, its capabilities and how to apply to use it.

What are the technical details?

The system is located in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at UCL.  The system was originally manufactured by X-Tek (now Nikon Metrology) and has recently been refurbished by Metrix NDT.  The refurbishment has been funded by the EPSRC Core Equipment Grant 2022 (EP/X034909/1) and has included a high-resolution detector panel, modern motor drivers, overhauled safety system and new user-friendly control software.

The system has a demountable microfocal X-ray source that operates at a maximum output of 125 kV and 1.0 mA.  As standard, the X-ray source has a tungsten (W) target but silver (Ag) can be used as an option to increase flux at lower energies.  The focal spot is typically 10-15 µm, depending on the operating parameters. A choice of detectors are available depending on the requirements of the study:

  1. iRay 0606P has CsI structured scintillators mounted on a TFT sensor.  The detector has 100 µm pixels and an overall area of 154 × 154 mm2.  This should be considered the default detector for general purpose imaging.
  2. Rayence 1015 has CsI scintillators on CMOS with 50 µm pixels.  The total active area is 116 × 146 mm2.  This is for samples that require particularly high resolution due to very high magnification.
What can I image?

This is a general-purpose imaging system that is suitable to most samples up to approximately 50 mm in diameter and height.  The exact bounds will depend on the magnification required, other system settings and sample parameters.  Please use the contact form to discuss your samples and requirements in more detail.

What can I get from it?

Users are free to extract image data at any point in the workflow.  Examples of the types of data that can be obtained are outlined below:

  • Raw projection sets that can be reconstructed with the users’ own, custom routines.  Typically, the raw images are uncompressed tiff files at the full resolution of the detector.
  • Fully reconstructed volumetric images that can be opened in ImageJ, Matlab or Python (for example) and then further manipulated or analysed.
  • Sample cross-section images that can be used directly in publications or reports.

A high spec PC is used to control the microCT and is available for standard and iterative reconstruction.  The resulting data is the responsibility of the user and it should be downloaded immediately after the scans are complete.  Long term data storage is not provided.  Any remaining data could be deleted at any time and without notice.

How do I access it?

Prospective users are required to complete a short application form.  We will need information about you, your samples (size, composition, number of, required resolution, and any safety considerations), and a short technical justification (why do you need to use microCT and how will it enhance your understanding of your samples) and a description of what you plan to do with the data afterwards, so that we can judge whether the microCT system will meet your requirements.

How much does it cost?

Access to the equipment has a tiered charging structure as outlined below.

Tier 1: Access is provided free of charge for some personnel in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering. This applies to the following:

  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught (MSc and MRes) student projects.
  • PhD students with a standard scholarship (DTP, CDT, etc.) or self-funded.
  • Early Career Researchers who do not currently have any funding and want to collect pilot data to support grant applications.

Tier 2: Nominal access charge to cover essential consumables to keep the system operational. This applies to:

  • MSc, MRes and PhD students from other departments and PhD students with an iCASE or enhanced studentship.
  • Early Career Researchers with Fellowships or similar small-scale funding for the purpose of collecting pilot data to support grant applications.

Tier 3: Large scale grant funded research.

  • Mid and Late Career Researchers with large scale grants.
  • Anyone with grants where use of the system has been specifically costed in the project budget.

Tier 4: External organisations and consultancy projects.

TierAccess charge
2£12 per sample
3£30 per sample
4£380 per hour (includes technician support)

Apply to use MicroCT