Inaugurated "OptImaTo" laboratory of the University of Trieste to unveil the secrets of matter with X-rays

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(Courtesy of Università di Trieste)
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(Foto Goina)


Set up at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, the new laboratory inaugurated today by the University of Trieste is led by the internationally renowned physicist Pierre Thibault

Trieste, 17 May 2023 - The University of Trieste is inaugurating a new state-of-the-art laboratory: the OptImaTo (Optimal Imaging and Tomography) laboratory, set up at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste and led by the internationally renowned physicist Pierre Thibault, full professor of applied physics at the university.

OptImaTo is equipped with state-of-the-art combined instruments that make the laboratory unique: a robotic arm manipulates the samples to be analysed on a micrometer scale, while the powerful liquid anode X-ray source and the photon-counting detector provide top-quality images in very short times.
The uniqueness of the laboratory lies in the combined method of using these instruments: the potential for acquiring new results and developing innovative techniques is therefore extraordinary.

"In our laboratory we are working on imaging methods that reveal features of matter that are invisible with conventional X-ray techniques,' explains Pierre Thibault, Professor of Applied Physics at the Physics Department of the University of Trieste. 'Applications will be strategic for industry, for the development of new materials and for monitoring climate change, thanks, for example, to the possibility of studying in depth the alterations caused by pollution in marine animals. Of great interest are also studies of delicate fossil and archaeological finds that can be investigated as never before. X-rays pass through matter and the 'photos' thus obtained reproduce their degree of absorption by the object. By exploiting our knowledge of how X-rays interact with matter, we are able to produce images from phenomena such as refraction or scattering of the rays. In this way, we are able to capture not only more details but also completely new features.

Set up thanks to a European ERC (Horizon 2020) grant worth around EUR 2.2 million obtained by Prof. Thibault for his study on Scattering-Based X-ray Imaging and Tomography, the new research facility enables images of the interior of objects to be taken.

UniTS and the international research centre Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste have entered into an agreement to enable it to be set up in Trieste, collaborating and contributing to the creation of a team of PhD students, hosting most of the experimental activities and providing space.

"Today's inauguration of the new OptImaTo laboratory at Elettra Sincrotrone testifies not only to the excellence of our research and of the professors who have chosen to be part of our university," commented the Rector of the University of Trieste Roberto Di Lenarda, "but also to the close relationship of collaboration and trust that binds us with the extraordinary scientific realities of the area. As of today, researchers will have a new tool to advance knowledge in strategic areas for society'.

The President of Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, Professor Alfonso Franciosi, commented: "All major international research infrastructures such as Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste flourish also thanks to the close collaboration with local universities, first and foremost the University of Trieste. We were therefore delighted to collaborate with UniTs in setting up the OptimaTo laboratory, which, thanks to the leadership of Professor Thibault, will be able to offer Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste's international users an important complementary resource to our Elettra and FERMI light machines, sources of unsurpassed brilliance in the X-ray range".

The technique used

The technique adopted and developed by the group, which is very effective and unusual, concerns the use of simple sandpaper as an X-ray marker. When inserted between the X-ray source and the sample, the sandpaper produces a characteristic 'leopard-spot' distortion of the X-ray illumination. As it passes through the sample, the spatially 'spatially fragmented' illumination carries with it information on absorption, refraction and scattering, revealing previously unseen characteristics.
The data collected with this innovative and original technique need to be interpreted with computational methods capable of understanding and reconstructing what happened to the X-rays when they passed through the sample.
This problem, technically referred to as the 'inverse problem', sees the team at the University of Trieste excel in developing computational methods that make it possible to decode the interaction of matter with X-rays and the disturbance caused, for example, by vibrations and noises that normally occur during the experiment.

RAI TGR FVG 17.05.2023 News h14 (from 8'43")


Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 May 2023 09:47