Free software eases 3D image reconstruction

Editorial

Rebecca Pool

Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 15:15
Image: 3D view of a hyperbranched nanoparticle with complex structure, made possible by Tomviz 1.0 [Robert Hovden, Michigan Engineering]
 
New open-source software allows researchers to create 3D images from electron tomography data, then share and manipulate those images in a single platform.
 
Developed by researchers at the University of Michigan, Cornell University and open-source software company Kitware, Tomviz 1.0 is the first open-source tool for creating 3D images and could soon be integrated directly into microscopes.
 
"3D nanoscale imagery is useful in a variety of fields, including the auto industry, semiconductors and even geology," says Professor Robert Hovden, from materials science engineering at U-M and one of the creators of the program. "Now you don't have to be a tomography expert to work with these images in a meaningful way."
 
Tomviz: An Open-Source 3-D View of Nanomaterials
 
According to Hovden, Tomviz solves a key challenge; the difficulty of interpreting data from electron microscopes.
 
While researchers typically rely on proprietary software, analysis and image reconstruction is expensive and time-consuming.
 
What's more, once a 3D image is created, researchers struggle to to reproduce this data to share it with others.
 
Instead, Hovden and colleagues reckon Tomviz dramatically simplifies the process and reduces the amount of time and computing power needed to make this happen.
 
What's more the platform also enables researchers to readily collaborate by sharing all the steps that went into creating a given image.
 
"Tomviz explores both the surface and the interior of a nanoscale object, with detailed information about its density and structure," highlights Hovden. "In some cases, we can see individual atoms."
 
3D view of a particle used in a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle. The gray structure is carbon; the red and blue particles are nanoscale flecks of platinum. The image is made possible by Tomviz 1.0. [Elliot Padget, Cornell University]
 
To develop the software, Hovden and colleagues worked with researchers at Cornell, Berkeley Lab and UCLA, to obtain vast volumes of raw data.
 
They then joined forces with open-source software maker Kitware.to convert the raw data into code.
 
With the release of Tomviz 1.0, Hovden is looking toward the next stages of the project, where he hopes to integrate the software directly into microscopes.
 
He believes that U-M's atom probe tomography facilities and expertise could help him design a version that could ultimately uncover the chemistry of all atoms in 3D.
 
"We are unlocking access to see new 3D nanomaterials that will power the next generation of technology," says Hovden. "I'm very interested in pushing the boundaries of understanding materials in 3D."
 
 
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