We use 3-D imaging to help us gain insights into how plant shapes develop. By imaging in 3-D we can observe plant shape and gene activity at a variety of developmental stages and scales.
To create 3-D images of plants we use a technique called Optical Projection Tomography (OPT). OPT works by projecting light through a specimen and capturing a series of shadow projections as the specimen is rotated. The images are processed by specialised computer software to construct the 3-dimensional representation. Once a scan has been constructed we use another piece of software to view the various elements of the plant, make measurements, use landmarks to quantify growth in 3-D, and collect images for animations shown in the Self-made Shape movie and Inner World of Carnivorous Plants.
OPT can be applied to a wide variety of plant material including leaves, flowers, seedlings, roots, seeds, embryos and meristems.
For naturally semi-transparent structures, such as Utricularia bladder traps, live 3-D imaging using OPT allows us to view real-time growth of living plants samples.