inside the XRM cabinet at portsmouth university

Experts in advanced X-Ray microscopy

We use X-Ray microscopy to research biological structures, biomaterials and bio-inspired engineering materials

The Zeiss Global Centre (ZGC) is a strategic collaboration between the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering at the University of Portsmouth and Carl Zeiss Ltd. It is also an important part of the HEFCE-funded Future Technology Centre.

Under the directorship of Dr Gianluca Tozzi, the ZGC has achieved an international reputation in the research of natural materials, biological structures, biomaterials, and bio-inspired engineering materials using advanced X-ray microscopy. In particular, the use of X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT) coupled with in situ mechanics and digital volume correlation (DVC) for biological tissues and biomaterials represent the trademark technology for which the ZGC excels in the UK and abroad.

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The research carried out at the ZGC is pivotal to delivering the strategic goals of the University, and is principally aligned with the University's Health and Wellbeing and Future and Emerging Technologies research themes. ZGC also provides excellent training and consultancy opportunities for academic and industrial collaborators.

The ZGC aims to

  • Develop technology for advanced imaging and correlative modalities

  • Produce the highest quality of research in the field of bioengineering and materials science

  • Support industrial growth and consultancy

  • Integrate expertise and technology with other UK/International national facilities (i.e. Diamond Light Source)

Core members

Image of Dr Gianluca Tozzi

Dr Gianluca Tozzi

  • Job Title Reader in Bioengineering
  • Email Address
  • Department School of Mechanical and Design Engineering
  • Faculty Faculty of Technology
Image of Dr John Chiverton

Dr John Chiverton

  • Job Title Lecturer
  • Email Address
  • Department School of Energy and Electronic Engineering
  • Faculty Faculty of Technology
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor
Image of Dr Petko Petkov

Dr Petko Petkov

  • Job Title Senior Lecturer
  • Email Address
  • Department School of Mechanical and Design Engineering
  • Faculty Faculty of Technology
  • PhD Supervisor PhD Supervisor

Other core staff members

  • Dr Charles Wood, Senior Scientific Officer in X-ray Microscopy

Research staff

  • Colin Lupton, Research Fellow
  • Dr Robin Rumney, Research Fellow
  • Dr Aikaterina Karali, Research Associate
  • Roxane Bonithon, Tosca Roncada and Sarah Davis, PhD students

ZGC users and experts across the University

UK and International collaborators

  • Dr Enrico Dall’Ara, University of Sheffield, UK
  • Prof Philip Withers, University of Manchester, UK
  • Dr Hari Arora, Swansea University, UK
  • Dr Dave Hollis, LaVision Ltd, UK
  • Dr Jay Warnett, University of Warwick, UK
  • Dr Himadri Gupta, Queen Mary University London, UK
  • Prof Asa Barber, London South Bank University, UK 
  • Prof Richard Oreffo, University of Southampton, UK
  • Prof Peter Zioupos, Cranfield University, UK
  • Andy Goldberg, Imperial College London, UK
  • Prof Liguo Zhao, Loughborough University, UK
  • Prof Luca Cristofolini, Universita’ di Bologna, Italy
  • Prof Marco Viceconti, Universita’ di Bologna, Italy
  • Dr Flavia Libonati, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
  • Prof Stephane Avril, Mines Saint-Etienne, France
  • Prof Hanna Isaksson, Lund University, Sweden
  • Dr Greet Kerckhofs, UCLouvain, Belgium
  • Prof Frank Witte, Biotrics Biomaterials, Germany
  • Prof Thomas Grupp, Aesculap, Germany
  • Dr Egon Perilli, Flinders University, Australia
  • Prof Karen Reynolds, Flinders University, Australia
  • Prof Markus Buehler, MIT, USA
  • Dr Teodolito Guillen Giron, Istituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica, Costa Rica

Case studies

Zeiss Global Centre research XCT image


Understanding bone tissue regenerative ability and load bearing capacity is of paramount importance to drive new biomaterial formulation for tissue engineering applications. At the ZGC we are conducting extensive research on the topic by characterising 3D full-field strain on the newly formed bone using in situ XCT mechanics and digital volume correlation (DVC) aimed at exploring:

  • Relationships between load transfer ability, microstructure and mineralisation of newly formed bone produced in vivo by different osteoregenerative biomaterials;
  • Mechanical adaptation of regenerated bone structure to bear external loads since the very early stages of healing.


Zeiss Global Centre research image 2


Nano-metre based fibres are an important component in many materials, playing an essential role and providing improvements in many functional aspects such as mechanical properties and biocompatibility. The physical properties of the fibres in a material (i.e. geometric arrangement, distribution) and physical properties (i.e. size) can have an impact on the role of the fibres in these different materials. High-resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (XCT) is fast becoming an important tool in the investigation of these properties of fibres in 3D.

However, the effect of XCT imaging resolution is often difficult to interpret when imaging materials with sub-micron fibres. Another imaging modality with better sub-micron imaging resolution is Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), which is limited to 2D estimates.  Furthermore, the estimation of material fibre properties can be affected by differences in methods, partly due to a lack of specifically tailored fully automatic 3D image processing methods. This study therefore aims at investigating a number of questions in this regard:

  • Can fully automatic 3D image processing techniques be used to provide reliable estimates of the geometric properties and dimensions of fibres from XCT imaging data?

  • Can estimates provided by fully automatic 3D image processing techniques be comparable to a gold standard 2D estimate from SEM?


Zeiss Global Centre image 3


Deficiencies in bone vasculature are associated with complex bone pathologies and an increased risk of bone non-union fractures. Studies that investigate ways to remedy such problems require the ability to quantify vascularisation within bone.

Quantification of bone vasculature is severely limited within the confines of previously used techniques. Histology does not allow the visualisation of the complex 3D connectivity of intraosseous vasculature and although synchrotron-based techniques are capable of resolving this level of detail, access to such facilities is not always readily available.

We were able to overcome these challenges with high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (XCT) using the ZEISS Xradia 520 Versa within the ZGC. Subsequent analysis with AVIZO software allowed for accurate quantification of intraosseous vascular branching to distinguish between effects of different treatment groups.



The ZGC is equipped with the latest X-ray imaging and in-situ mechanical testing technology, and high-performance computing facilities. In addition to licensed software for accurate post-processing and analysis of images, the ZGC makes use of the following equipment and experiments.

Equipment and experiments

Versa 510 (Zeiss)

The Zeiss Xradia 510 Versa 3D X-ray microscope allows sub-micron resolution for samples from millimetres to centimetres, achievable via a unique RaaD (resolution at a distance) capability. The instruments powerful combination of world-leading resolution and contrast with flexible working distances provides outstanding non-destructive imaging performance.

Versa 520 (Zeiss)

The Zeiss Xradia 520 Versa 3D X-ray microscope unlocks new degrees of flexibility for scientific discovery and expands the boundaries of non-destructive imaging with innovative contrast and acquisition techniques. Xradia 520 Versa achieves a minimum voxel size of 70nm.

CT5000 (DEBEN)

The CT5000 5kN in-situ tensile stage for µXCT applications is a modular tensile and compression testing system with a maximum extension of 10mm and a 5kN load cell with an accuracy of 1% (of full-scale range). The actuator speed ranges 0.1mm/min to 1.0mm/min. The stage is equipped with an environmental chamber and Peltier heated and cooled jaws with temperature range from -20°C to +160°C. Size: 117mm diameter, 285mm to the bottom of the tube, tube length to suit X-Ray source. Stage weight: ~6.5kg.


The CT500 500N in-situ tensile stage for µXCT applications is a modular tensile and compression testing system with a maximum extension of 10mm and a 500N load cell with an accuracy of 1% (of full-scale range). The actuator speed ranges from 0.1mm/min to 1.0mm/min. The stage is equipped with an environmental chamber. Size: 87mm diameter, 86mm to the bottom of the tube, tube length to suit X-Ray source. Stage weight: ~1.0kg.

FT-RS1002 Microrobotic system (FEMTOTOOLS)

The FT-RS1002 Microrobotic System is a versatile and reconfigurable micromechanical testing and robotic handling system for the investigation of microscopic samples in multiple directions (horizontal, vertical, angles), with force measurement ranging from 5 nN to 100 mN. The system can move 26 mm in x-y-z direction with nanometer resolution and has a displacement sensing ranging from 5 nm to 26 mm.

LSM 880 with Airyscan (Zeiss)

The LSM 880 with Airyscan combines fast super-resolution and sensitive confocal image acquisition. Its novel detector design results in four-to-eight times improvement in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), while simultaneously achieving a 1.7x increase in resolution at increased acquisition speeds of 27fps (at 480 x 480 pixels).

EVO MA10 (Zeiss)

The Zeiss EVO MA10 is a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with a LaB6 electron source for micro-to-nano-scale imaging of a wide range of materials; chemical analysis by energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy; and mineralogical and structural analysis by electron backscatter diffraction. A second SEM with W-filament electron source provides routine imaging of micro-materials.

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