Sunday , August 1 2021

Gold helps CT scanners collect the best surface structures

Scientists have developed a new technique to capture fine, usually invisible surface structures of biological materials using computed tomography.

When organisms and biological materials, fossilized features or delicate skeletons are being recorded, CT scans often do not provide details about the fine surface. Researchers in Germany have managed to solve the problem of coating materials in a thin layer of gold.

This technique was previously used to improve scanning electron microscopy but was previously not associated with computed tomography.

"So far, many delicate surface structures of our research facilities simply could not be represented by computer tomography analysis," said Peter Ruer, a PhD student at the University of the Cologne Zoological Institute.

To mimic fine details, such as the hair or stairs of the organism, researchers had to find a way to increase the contrast of X-rays. The tests showed that gold made the trick.

When scientists compared images of untreated specimens with images of gold-coated samples, they found previously invisible surface features. The gold layer does not interfere with the ability of computer tomography to capture internal anatomical details.

In the laboratory, scientists have shown that the use of gold has improved CT scans of insects, bird feathers, parts of plants and spider silk.

"We wanted to show that our new approach works not only for certain groups of organisms, but also extends the methods of modern morphology," said Ruer.

"Morphological details that can now be visualized can also be used for applications ranging from taxonomy and functional considerations to educational projects in museums," says researcher Marcus Lambertz.

The technology described this week in the Journal of Anatomy can also be used to test quality control in commercial production.

"By combining two already well-established methods for the first time, we created something completely new," said Ruer. "This opens a series of previously closed doors in the three-dimensional evaluation of even the best structures."

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