Time-resolved in situ synchrotron-microCT: 4D deformation of bone and bone analogues using digital volume correlation

Marta Peña Fernández, Alexander P. Kao, Roxane Bonithon, David Howells, Andrew J. Bodey, Kazimir Wanelik, Frank Witte, Richard Johnston, Hari Arora, Gianluca Tozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Digital volume correlation (DVC) in combination with high-resolution micro-computed tomography (microCT) imaging and in situ mechanical testing is gaining popularity for quantifying 3D full-field strains in bone and biomaterials. However, traditional in situ time-lapsed (i.e., interrupted) mechanical testing cannot fully capture the dynamic strain mechanisms in viscoelastic biological materials. The aim of this study was to investigate the time-resolved deformation of bone structures and analogues via continuous in situ synchrotron-radiation microCT (SR-microCT) compression and DVC to gain a better insight into their structure-function relationships. Fast SR-microCT imaging enabled the deformation behaviour to be captured with high temporal and spatial resolution. Time-resolved DVC highlighted the relationship between local strains and damage initiation and progression in the different biostructures undergoing plastic deformation, bending and/or buckling of their main microstructural elements. The results showed that SR-microCT continuous mechanical testing complemented and enhanced the information obtained from time-lapsed testing, which may underestimate the 3D strain magnitudes as a result of the stress relaxation occurring in between steps before image acquisition in porous biomaterials. Altogether, the findings of this study highlight the importance of time-resolved in situ experiments to fully characterise the time-dependent mechanical behaviour of biological tissues and biomaterials and to further explore their micromechanics under physiologically relevant conditions. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Time-resolved synchrotron X-ray tomography in combination with in situ mechanical testing provided the first four-dimensional analysis of the mechanical deformation of bone and bone analogues. To unravel the interplay of damage initiation and progression with local deformation, digital volume correlation was used to map the local strain field while microstructural changes were tracked with high temporal and spatial resolution. The results highlighted the importance of fast imaging and time-resolved in situ experiments to capture the real deformation of complex porous materials to fully characterize the local strain-damage relationship. The findings are notably improving the understanding of time-dependent mechanical behaviour of bone tissue, with the potential to be extend to highly viscoelastic biomaterials and soft tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-439
Number of pages16
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date12 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Bone
  • Continuous in situ mechanics
  • Digital volume correlation
  • Time-dependent behaviour
  • Time-resolved SR-microCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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