Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Cross-Section of Peanut and Pretzel M&Ms

- October 28, 2015

The Energy Institute’s own Dr. Zuleima Karpyn took center stage at this week’s Energy Exchange. Dr. Karpyn presented the “Engineering Applications of X-ray Microtomography Imaging,” while introducing the newly minted microCT scanner located in the Institute. In a dimly lit room full of colleagues and students, Dr. Karpyn educated the crowd with high-quality images and content produced from the new scanner.

Dr. Karpyn began her presentation with an overview of radiography and how the technique is used for creating descriptive two-dimensional images. She expounded upon the applicability of radiography in energy engineering, as well as other science disciplines. However, Dr. Karpyn explained the drawbacks of a two-dimensional projection, describing the need to add a third dimension to the Institute’s radiography capabilities: depth.

Tomography, or what Dr. Karpyn narrated as a “reconstruction” of an item, is a three-dimensional image produced through a process similar to classic radiography. In a classic radiography system, an x-ray source generates x-ray beams, which pass into and are reflected by the object being studied, and are absorbed and translated into an image by a detector. However, tomography allows the object to rotate in place, producing an image the not only recreates height and length, but also depth, in order to better understand the inner workings of samples.

According to Dr. Karpyn, Penn State has been operating a CT scanner for about 13 years. However, Dr. Karpyn, partnering with Penn State Research, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Engineering and various other departments at Penn State, decided it was time for an upgrade in order to produce higher resolution images of samples. Over the past few months, Dr. Karpyn, along with a team of scientists and engineers from General Electric, have been installing a state-of-the-art microtomography scanner called the GE v|tome|x L 300.

The increasing number of projects that required higher and higher radiography resolutions at Penn State was the main driving force for funding the new scanner, Dr. Karpyn expanded upon. “Generally speaking, this is a much more advanced instrument,” Dr. Karpyn explained, “especially in terms of resolution, getting as close at 800 nanometers.” She continued on to discuss how the new scanner will be able to support larger specimens and samples than previously allowed and that they will be able to entertain a number of projects by the spring of 2016.

Dr. Karpyn concluded her presentation by expressing different images that the new microtomography scanner had created, including “slices,” or cross-section cuts of a sample, of objects like granola bars and different types of M&Ms. She also showed the audience a startlingly descriptive and detailed x-ray image of a fish skeleton, which intrigued many of the Exchange go-ers.

            Dr. Zuleima Karpyn is an Associate Professor of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering and a Quentin E. and Louise L. Wood Faculty Fellow in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University