Their technique — called Hierarchical Phase-Contrast Tomography (HiP-CT) — relies on X-rays from the European Synchrotron Research Facility particle accelerator in Grenoble, France. Following its Extremely Brilliant Source upgrade (ESRF-EBS), European Synchrotron can produce X-rays 100 billion times brighter than a hospital X-ray. They’re the brightest X-rays in the world, according to the researchers.
The result is that researchers can view blood vessels that are five microns in diameter — a tenth of the diameter of a hair — in an intact, donated human lung. The tiny size is 100 times smaller than the 1 mm-diameter blood vessels that a typical clinical CT scan can capture.