A comparative study of high resolution cone beam X-ray tomography and synchrotron tomography applied to Fe- and Al-alloys
X-ray computed tomography (XCT) has become a very important method for non-destructive 3D-characterization and evaluation of materials. Due to measurement speed and quality, XCT systems with cone beam geometry and matrix detectors have gained general acceptance. Continuous improvements in the quality and performance of X-ray tubes and XCT devices have led to cone beam CT systems that can now achieve spatial resolutions down to 1 μm and even below. However, the polychromatic nature of the source, limited photon flux and cone beam artefacts mean that there are limits to the quality of the CT-data achievable; these limits are particularly pronounced with materials of higher density like metals. Synchrotron radiation offers significant advantages by its monochromatic and parallel beam of high brilliance. These advantages usually cause fewer artefacts, improved contrast and resolution. Tomography data of a steel sample and of two multi-phase Al-samples (AlSi12Ni1, AlMg5Si7) are recorded by advanced cone beam XCT-systems with a μ-focus (μXCT) and a sub-μm (nano-focus, sub-μXCT) X-ray source with voxel dimensions between 0.4 and 3.5 μm and are compared with synchrotron computed tomography (sXCT) with 0.3 μm/voxel. CT data features like beam hardening and ring artefacts, detection of details, sharpness, contrast, signal-to-noise ratio and the grey value histogram are systematically compared. In all cases μXCT displayed the lowest performance. Sub-μXCT gives excellent results in the detection of details, spatial and contrast resolution, which are comparable to synchrotron-XCT recordings. The signal-to-noise ratio is usually significantly lower for sub-μXCT compared with the two other methods. With regard to measurement costs “for industrial users”, scanning volume, accessibility and user-friendliness sub-μXCT has significant advantages in comparison to synchrotron-XCT.