Imaging applications of synchrotron X-ray phase-contrast microtomography in biological morphology and biomaterials science. I. General aspects of the technique and its advantages in the analysis of millimetre-sized arthropod structure

J Microsc. 2007 Jul;227(Pt 1):51-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2818.2007.01785.x.


Synchrotron-generated X-rays provide scientists with a multitude of investigative techniques well suited for the analysis of the composition and structure of all types of materials and specimens. Here, we describe the properties of synchrotron-generated X-rays and the advantages that they provide for qualitative morphological research of millimetre-sized biological organisms and biomaterials. Case studies of the anatomy of insect heads, of whole microarthropods and of the three-dimensional reconstruction of the cuticular tendons of jumping beetles, all performed at the beamline ID19 of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), are presented to illustrate the techniques of phase-contrast tomography available for anatomical and structural investigations. Various sample preparation techniques are described and compared and experimental settings that we have found to be particularly successful are given. On comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the technique with traditional histological thin sectioning, we conclude that synchrotron radiation microtomography has a great potential in biological microanatomy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / ultrastructure*
  • Biocompatible Materials / analysis*
  • Synchrotrons*
  • Tomography / methods*
  • X-Rays*


  • Biocompatible Materials