An X-ray system devised for use in medical research at the University of Wales College of Medicine is now being applied to the needs of industry, writes Iola Smith.
Originally installed to help osteoporosis researchers calculate the extent of bone loss, the microfocal equipment is now enabling manufacturing companies to analyse the structures of microchips, ceramics and plastic materials.
The system has been made available to industry thanks to a joint venture between the college's department of radiology and the University Hospital Wales.
As a result, companies can get detailed information on the micro-structure of various materials such as the size of glass fibre strands in glass-reinforced plastic.
Bioengineer Brian Sullivan has spent the past seven years refining the equipment.
"It's advantage is that manufacturers can see inside objects without breaking them," he said. "The images produced are very detailed and highly magnified."
Bubbles, insects and rabbits' ears are among items already analysed by the X-ray equipment.
The bubbles project examines the presence of bubbles in a variety of materials, from foam to the parts of ball-point pens.
The technology has been used widely by the college's biology research programmes. These range from investigating the development and metamorphosis of insects to an examination of the blood vessels in rabbits' ears.