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4D Science

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Run your own synchrotron style experiment. 
  • See inside a volcano to understand how it erupts.  
  • Handle 3D prints of ice-cream magnified 100x and see what makes it taste so good.

Find out more

The properties of materials depend on their internal structure across many scales, from the nano to the macro. The shape of these structures is controlled by how the material is made. Our exhibit shows how we’ve used 4D synchrotron X-ray tomography of magma to better understand volcanic eruptions, and of ice crystals, to work out why some ice cream tastes better!

Synchrotron light, 10 billion times brighter than the sun, is used to generate X-ray tomographs (3D images) to study the structure inside materials, with spatial resolutions from tens of nanometres to microns. We create conditions that cover a wide range of temperatures, pressures and atmospheres – replicating the forces that materials undergo in real situations – and we watch the materials as they change. This combination of 3D imaging plus time gives us 4D science! By then building computer models of the objects we study, we can better predict their behaviour to understand and improve them. Important examples we study include: what happens when joints get arthritis? How can jet engines be more efficient? Can we make better batteries?    

Presented by: University of ManchesterDiamond Light source, the UK's synchrotron science facility, University of Liverpool, Unilever, Research Complex at Harwell