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Lightweight, Portable X-Ray Core Scanner



The Berkeley Lab X-ray scanner was manually moved into this ocean drilling vessel's core laboratory for on-site testing.


  • Portable computed tomography X-ray imaging of core samples at remote drilling locations such as rig sites
  • Laboratory X-ray scanning to monitor core floods


  • Portable and light weight (< 300 kg including power supply and computer)
  • Multi-energy X-ray scanning
  • Variable resolution (voxel sizes from 50 to 200 microns)
  • Meets U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifications for cabinet safe equipment
  • 3-D scanning rate of ~ 3 min/ft
  • Single projection scanning rate of ~ 60 sec/5 ft core

Barry Freifeld, Timothy Kneafsey, Jacob Pruess, Paul Reiter, and Liviu Tomutsa have developed a compact and portable X-ray scanning system that allows real-time examination of core sample structure at remote drilling locations. The Berkeley Lab computed tomography imager is capable of multi-energy scanning to identify various materials comprising a sample. Three-dimensional scans can be taken at a rate of three minutes per foot of core length. With whole-round core samples, resolutions between 50 to 200 microns can be achieved.


A 3-D reconstructed image of a core slice containing methane hydrate (left) and ice (right) in a sand matrix.



Conventional X-ray tomographic imaging systems fully enclose the imaging equipment in a lead-lined room that shields the operator from harmful radiation. These systems weigh 1000 kgs or more and are difficult to transport. The dimensions of the Berkeley Lab scanner are 1.37m x .61m x 2.03m and the entire system weighs less than 300 kgs, due largely to the highly efficient design of the X-ray shielding. This difference in weight means that the Berkeley Lab apparatus can be easily located at the drilling site. The Berkeley Lab system also meets U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifications for cabinet safe equipment, including the requirement to provide safety interlocks that prohibit operation when the shielding shell is open.

The Berkeley Lab X-ray scanner is well-suited for obtaining real-time images to determine the presence and spatial distribution of methane hydrate, a potential energy source. Because methane hydrate rapidly decomposes at ambienttemperature and pressure, core samples containing the hydrate currently have to be maintained at high pressures or low temperatures and transported for imaging, or heavy and cumbersome imaging systems must be transported to the field site so that samples can be imaged immediately after extraction. The portable X-ray imager eliminates these problems because it can easily be transported to the drilling location and can rapidly scan core samples. The Berkeley Lab scanner is also useful for real-time laboratory monitoring of core floods.

STATUS: U.S. Patent #7,082,185. Available for licensing or collaborative research



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