Computed Tomography (CT) Scan for Car and Motorcycle Engines

Most CT machines are built to scan organic tissue, usually live human beings. Recently a friend of mine who develops and builds special CT machines made for diagnosing engine defects gave me some films of scans he had done on several vehicles.

The following films were too dark for my scanner to reproduce so I photographed them with a digital camera in front of a white wall. The blue blotch is the reflection of my computer monitor behind me. The red horizontal lines are where I obscured the name of the university that is conducting this research, as they wish to remain anonymous.

The following film is too big to fit on my flatbed scanner so I had to scan it in separate sections. Click on an image to see a larger, more detailed view of that section.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: There's not much room in a CT scan machine. How can a huge automobile fit in the tiny space that is barely big enough for a person?

A: This CT machine is large enough to accommodate an entire automobile.

Q: I heard you can't put metal anywhere near a CT scan machine. How is this possible?

A: This magnet-free CT scan machine uses extremely high-powered x-rays beams and ultrasensitive detectors that enable it to "see" through up to 2.5 feet of solid metal without generating a significant magnetic field.

Q: Why are the images bumpy or jagged?

A: CT machines are optimized for scanning objects with smooth contours. The software on this machine has not yet been customized to work with inorganic angular objects.

Q: This sounds amazing. Why haven't I heard of this before?

A: Research and development are privately funded in conjunction with a university that wishes to remain anonymous. (I have obscured their name where it appears on the films.)

Q: What will this do for the field of engine development and repair?

A: It is particularly useful to be able to diagnose an engine without going through the costly and time-consuming process of disassembling it. Also, since some defects are detectable only when the engine is running, it is useful to be able to diagnose an engine without shutting it down.

Q: What else can you scan with this machine?

A: While this CT machine is optimized for scanning automobile and motorcycle engines, it also works on any other part of the vehicle (exhaust system, etc.). A larger prototype is being built that can scan larger engines, e.g. from airplanes.

Q: What else can you tell me?

A: The prototype that generated these films operates similarly to a conventional CT machine in which the subject to be scanned must be placed inside the machine and remain immobile for several seconds. The U.S. government has funded development of a military-grade version that can scan vehicles (including their occupants and contents) up to a distance of 250 feet away in as little as 0.25 seconds. The production version is expected to operate at least double that distance in less than a third of the time. Because this has obvious privacy implications, our lawyers have recommended we not divulge further details until all potential liability issues have been resolved.

Q: How can I find out more?

A: Sorry, no further information is available at this time.

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Last modified: Fri 18 June 2010 09:35:42