Time resolved in situ X-ray tomographic microscopy unraveling dynamic processes in geologic systems

Federica Marone, Christian M. Schlepütz, Sina Marti, Florian Fusseis, Andrés Velásquez-Parra, Michele Griffa , Joaquín Jiménez-Martínez, Katherine J. Dobson, Marco Stampanoni

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X-ray tomographic microscopy is a well-established analysis technique in different fields of the Earth Sciences to access volumetric information of the internal microstructure of a large variety of opaque materials with high-spatial resolution and in a non-destructive manner. Synchrotron radiation, with its coherence and high flux, is required for pushing the temporal resolution into the second and sub-second regime and beyond, and therefore moving from the investigation of static samples to the study of fast dynamic processes as they happen in 3D. Over the past few years, several hardware and software developments at the TOMCAT beamline at the Swiss Light Source contributed to establishing its highly flexible and user-friendly fast tomography endstation, making a large variety of new dynamic in situ and operando investigations possible. Here we present an overview of the different devices, including an in-house developed detector, a new highly efficient macroscope and a programmable fast rotation stage. Their tight interplay and synchronization are key for lifting experimental design compromises and follow dynamic processes with high spatial and temporal resolution unfolding over prolonged periods of time, as often required by many applications. We showcase these new capabilities for the Earth Sciences community by presenting three different geological studies, which make use of different sample environments. With a tri-axial deformation rig, chemo-mechanical-hydraulic feedbacks between gypsum dehydration and halite deformation have been studied, while the spatio-temporal evolution of a solute plume has been investigated for the first time in 3D with a flow cell. A laser-based heating system available at the beamline provides access to the high temperatures required to address bubble growth and collapse as well as bubble-bubble interaction and coalescence in volcanological material. With the integration of a rheometer, information on bubble deformation could also be gained. In the near future, upgrades of most large-scale synchrotron radiation facilities to diffraction-limited storage rings will create new opportunities, for instance through sub-second tomographic imaging capabilities at sub-micron length scales.
Original languageEnglish
Article number346
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Earth Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2020


  • synchrotron radiation
  • tomographic microscopy
  • time-resolved
  • high temperature
  • high pressure
  • volcanology
  • fluid flow


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