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Biotechnology - Physics - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Correlative Nanoscale 3D Imaging of Structure and Composition in Extended Objects
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Author: Feng Xu et al.

by Feng Xu, Lukas Helfen, Heikki Suhonen, Dan Elgrabli, Sam Bayat, P├ęter Reischig, Tilo Baumbach, Peter Cloetens

Structure and composition at the nanoscale determine the behavior of biological systems and engineered materials. The drive to understand and control this behavior has placed strong demands on developing methods for high resolution imaging. In general, the improvement of three-dimensional (3D) resolution is accomplished by tightening constraints: reduced manageable specimen sizes, decreasing analyzable volumes, degrading contrasts, and increasing sample preparation efforts. Aiming to overcome these limitations, we present a non-destructive and multiple-contrast imaging technique, using principles of X-ray laminography, thus generalizing tomography towards laterally extended objects. We retain advantages that are usually restricted to 2D microscopic imaging, such as scanning of large areas and subsequent zooming-in towards a region of interest at the highest possible resolution. Our technique permits correlating the 3D structure and the elemental distribution yielding a high sensitivity to variations of the electron density via coherent imaging and to local trace element quantification through X-ray fluorescence. We demonstrate the method by imaging a lithographic nanostructure and an aluminum alloy. Analyzing a biological system, we visualize in lung tissue the subcellular response to toxic stress after exposure to nanotubes. We show that most of the nanotubes are trapped inside alveolar macrophages, while a small portion of the nanotubes has crossed the barrier to the cellular space of the alveolar wall. In general, our method is non-destructive and can be combined with different sample environmental or loading conditions. We therefore anticipate that correlative X-ray nano-laminography will enable a variety of in situ and in operando 3D studies.