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A closer look at high-energy X-ray-induced bubble formation during soft tissue imaging

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • R. Patrick Xian
  • Joseph Brunet
  • Yuze Huang
  • Willi L. Wagner
  • Peter D. Lee
  • Paul Tafforeau
  • Claire L. Walsh
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Synchrotron Radiation
Issue number3
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)566-577
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date26/04/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Improving the scalability of tissue imaging throughput with bright, coherent X-rays requires identifying and mitigating artifacts resulting from the interactions between X-rays and matter. At synchrotron sources, long-term imaging of soft tissues in solution can result in gas bubble formation or cavitation, which dramatically compromises image quality and integrity of the samples. By combining in-line phase-contrast imaging with gas chromatography in real time, we were able to track the onset and evolution of high-energy X-ray-induced gas bubbles in ethanol-embedded soft tissue samples for tens of minutes (two to three times the typical scan times). We demonstrate quantitatively that vacuum degassing of the sample during preparation can significantly delay bubble formation, offering up to a twofold improvement in dose tolerance, depending on the tissue type. However, once nucleated, bubble growth is faster in degassed than undegassed samples, indicating their distinct metastable states at bubble onset. Gas chromatography analysis shows increased solvent vaporization concurrent with bubble formation, yet the quantities of dissolved gasses remain unchanged. By coupling features extracted from the radiographs with computational analysis of bubble characteristics, we uncover dose-controlled kinetics and nucleation site-specific growth. These hallmark signatures provide quantitative constraints on the driving mechanisms of bubble formation and growth. Overall, the observations highlight bubble formation as a critical yet often overlooked hurdle in upscaling X-ray imaging for biological tissues and soft materials and we offer an empirical foundation for their understanding and imaging protocol optimization. More importantly, our approaches establish a top-down scheme to decipher the complex, multiscale radiation–matter interactions in these applications.