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Three-dimensional imaging of xylem at cell wall level through near field nano holotomography

Detailed imaging of the three-dimensionally complex architecture of xylary plants is important for studying biological and mechanical functions of woody plants. Apart from common two-dimensional microscopy, X-ray micro-computed tomography has been established as a three-dimensional (3D) imaging method for studying the hydraulic function of wooden plants. However, this X-ray imaging method can barely reach the resolution needed to see the minute structures (e.g. pit membrane). To complement the xylem structure with 3D views at the nanoscale level, X-ray near-field nanoholotomography (NFH) was applied to analyze the wood species Pinus sylvestris and Fagus sylvatica. The demanded small specimens required focused ion beam (FIB) application. The FIB milling, however, influenced the image quality through gallium implantation on the cell-wall surfaces. The measurements indicated that NFH is appropriate for imaging wood at nanometric resolution. With a 26 nm voxel pitch, the structure of the cell-wall surface in Pinus sylvestris could be visualized in genuine detail. In wood of Fagus sylvatica, the structure of a pit pair, including the pit membrane, between two neighboring fibrous cells could be traced tomographically.

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