X-ray 3D tomographic techniques are powerful tools for investigating the morphology and internal structures of specimens. A common strategy for obtaining 3D tomography is to capture a series of 2D projections from different X-ray illumination angles of specimens mounted on a finely calibrated rotational stage. However, the reconstruction quality of 3D tomography relies on the precision and stability of the rotational stage, i.e. the accurate alignment of the 2D projections in the correct three-dimensional positions. This is a crucial problem for nano-tomographic techniques due to the non-negligible mechanical imperfection of the rotational stages at the nanometer level which significantly degrades the spatial resolution of reconstructed 3-D tomography. Even when using an X-ray micro-CT with a highly stabilized rotational stage, thermal effects caused by the CT system are not negligible and may cause sample drift. Here, we propose a markerless image auto-alignment algorithm based on an iterative method. This algorithm reduces the traditional projection matching method into two simplified matching problems and it is much faster and more reliable than traditional methods. This algorithm can greatly decrease hardware requirements for both nano-tomography and data processing and can be easily applied to other tomographic techniques, such as X-ray micro-CT and electron tomography.
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