Amazing gecko photos captured using X-rays from a particle accelerator

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Incredibly detailed images of the intricate insides of a gecko were created using high-energy X-rays emitted by a synchrotron particle accelerator



Life



24 February 2021

two geckos

Gary Ruben, Florian Schaff, Marcus Kitchen, Steve Morton. School of Physics & Astronomy, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

INTRICATELY preserved with its internal make-up laid bare, this composite image of a mummified Schlegel’s Japanese gecko (Gekko japonicus) shows the power of the high-energy X-rays emitted by a special type of particle accelerator.

Gary Ruben, Florian Schaff, Marcus Kitchen and Steve Morton at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, captured the image with a synchrotron, which accelerates electrons to close to the speed of light so that they emit high-energy X-rays. The main difference between a synchrotron’s X-rays and those from a hospital X-ray machine is brilliance: a synchrotron can produce X-rays that are 100 billion times brighter.

Synchrotron beams can also be produced at a specified wavelength, letting them reveal more about specimens by distinguishing between very subtle changes in density. This makes synchrotrons a promising candidate for obtaining better medical images of humans in the future.

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“The gecko was an interesting specimen to show the fine detail we can achieve,” says Morton. The particularly high-intensity beams of radiation from a synchrotron increase the image’s contrast and reduce exposure times, he says, helping with the clarity and visibility of the image.

The team could even get a 3D shot of the gecko by capturing it from thousands of different angles in the synchrotron’s X-ray beam before combining the views and using a computer to remove image artefacts and to distinguish between materials, such as tissues, for example.

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