New scanner means the sky's the limit

Powerful analytical instrument gives much more detailed information about the inside of a sample than microscopy techniques

RSSL's microscopy department is launching a revolutionary new service in non-destructive 3-D imaging of samples, following installation of a SkyScan X-ray tomography system. This powerful analytical instrument can scan a sample, much like a CT scanner used in medical imaging, to build up a three dimensional image and therefore give much more detailed information about the inside of a sample than microscopy techniques.

Thus far, the technology has barely – if ever - been used in food industry applications but the possibilities are amazing. ‘We will be able to take almost any food, supplement, pharmaceutical or their packaging, and take a good look inside,’ says Tom Ray, head of microscopy at RSSL.

‘With microscopy we are limited to looking at sections, and inferring from a few images what is going on with the whole sample. With this technique we can take many thousands of images and immediately build up a picture of the whole sample.’

Already, RSSL has used the instrument to examine food supplement capsules to determine exactly where the coating was thickest and thinnest, and hence describe how well the manufacturing process was working. Other applications will include investigations of foreign bodies, and studies to understand how different ingredients are mixing together.

‘Any customers that need to see inside their product or packaging will be helped by this technology,’ adds Ray. ‘It will tell us a huge amount about why products perform well or perform badly, and we can use it to help producers to achieve better quality control on their products. One can't say the applications are limitless, but we will be able to tell customers much more about the inner workings of their products than was ever possible before.’

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