Tomographic imaging can now be routinely performed over three orders of magnitude in length scale with correspondingly high data fidelity. This capability, coupled with the development of advanced computational algorithms for image interpretation, three-dimensional visualization, and structural characterization and computation of physical properties on image data, allows for a new numerical laboratory approach to the study of real complex materials: the Virtual Materials Laboratory. Numerical measurements performed directly on images can, in many cases, be performed with similar accuracy to equivalent laboratory measurements, but also on traditionally intractable materials. These emerging capabilities and their impact on a range of scientific disciplines and industry are explored here.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(07)70307-3