Geology in 3D: Inspection, Visualization, and Quantification Using
High-Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (CT)

Dr. Richard Ketcham
Research Scientist
Department of Geological Sciences
John A.& Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences
The University of Texas at Austin

High-resolution computed tomography (CT) is the industrial equivalent to medical CAT scanning. It produces images of solid objects that correspond to slices through them, and by acquiring a series of stacked slices a complete 3D representation of the object can be obtained. Because industrial CT need not be concerned with harming a patient, it can employ optimizations that allow it to achieve 1–3 orders of magnitude better resolution than medical devices, giving it resolution in the 10's or even 1's of micrometers.

In 1997, the University of Texas Department of Geological Sciences became the only academic science department in the work to house an industrial CT scanner. Established to make this technology available to the wider geological community, this facility has attracted researchers and specimens from around the world (not to mention outer space). Research projects to identify and develop applications for CT imagery have spanned virtually every geological discipline, including hydrogeology, paleontology, petrology, structural geology, and petroleum geology.

This talk will show examples from the wide range of projects we've done in the five and a half year history of our facility, including some of our more famous (and infamous) discoveries, and the new opportunities for utilizing this breakthrough technology that we are still exploring.

People wanting more information about CT or our facility can find it at:

Biographical information:
Dr. Richard Ketcham
BA, Geology and Computer Science, Williams College, 1987
Ph.D., Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 1995; Title: "Distribution of heat production in two metamorphic core complexes, Basin and Range province, Arizona: Quantitative constraints on models of regional thermal structure."
1995–1996: Worked in Houston for small consulting firm specializing in fission-track thermochronology
1996–2000: Research Associate, UT Austin Geological Sciences
2000–present: Research Scientist, UT Austin Geological Sciences