Surface contrast enhancement of integumentary structures in X‐ray tomography
Micro‐computed tomography (μCT) has become standard in the biological sciences to reconstruct, display and analyse 3D models of all kinds of organisms. However, it is often impossible to capture fine details of the surface and the internal anatomy at the same time with sufficient contrast. Here we introduce a new approach for the selective contrast‐enhancement of integumentary surface structures. The method relies on conventional and readily available sputter coaters to cover the entire sample with a thin layer of gold atoms. This approach proved successful on a diverse array of plants and animals. On average, we achieved a 14.48‐fold gain of surface contrast (ranging from 2.42‐fold to 86.93‐fold) compared with untreated specimens. Even X‐ray‐transparent samples such as spider silk became accessible via μCT. This selective contrast‐enhancement, makes it possible to digitally reconstruct fine surface structures with low absorbance while the tissue‐dependent grey value resolution of the inner anatomy is maintained and remains fully visualisable. The methodology is suited for a broad scientific application across biology and other sciences employing (μ)CT, as well as educative and public outreach purposes.