Micro-CT of a Wax-coated Paper Cup

Figure 1. Micro-CT of a section of a wax-coated paper cup

Click here see a 3-D video of a wax-coated paper cup

Why Scan a Cup?

Years ago, communal glass cups were used at public drinking fountains, causing deadly diseases to spread more easily. To prevent the sharing of germs, a lawyer by the name of Lawrence Luellen thought of creating a single-use paper cup. In 1907 Luellen developed an ice-cooled water vending machine with disposable cups called Health Kups, the forerunners of today’s Dixie® Cups.   Paper cups became a bigger necessity at the close of World War I when the 1918 influenza epidemic killed an estimated 50 million people. This catastrophe made the public aware of the need for collective action against infectious diseases. Bolstered by advertising to educate the public, Luellen’s business expanded and moved in 1921 to Easton, PA, (near to our corporate office), producing the Dixie cups that we are familiar with today1.

Now obviously, paper by itself absorbs water and disintegrates over time. The solution was to spray a fine wax or polyethylene coating to seal the paper and prevent leaks. The wax was great for cold beverages but hot beverages required the polyethylene coating, which has a higher melting temperature. We at Micro Photonics use similar wax-coated cups for our drinking water and decided to scan one to show the wax sealing.

The wax-coated cup micro-CT scan

A section of a cup was cut out for scanning purposes to ensure the wax and paper would be clearly visible. Using the SkyScan 1272 micro-CT scanner at 3 microns, we were able to capture an image of the paper with the seal that occurs from the wax. The wax that is normally sprayed on to the cup adheres between the fibers but also forms a nice moisture barrier on the outside (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Section of cup showing the paper with the wax seal

This wax seal, with its lower density compared to the paper, allows for clear distinction between the layers. The difference in layering is visible based on the atomic number of the materials. The higher the atomic number is, the higher the object appears on the grayscale range from 0 to 255 (Figure 3). In this case, the paper is higher in atomic number than the wax.

Figure 3. Grayscale range based on material’s atomic number


This demonstrates just one of many applications where the quality of layered samples can be inspected with micro-CT imaging. We hope this image of the month taught you something new about paper cups, and if you have an image of the month sample with layers, we would be glad to scan it for you. Please feel free to call Brandon Walters at 610-366-7103 or e-mail brandon@microphotonics.com to learn more about what micro-CT can offer you.

Related Products

Related Articles

US Partner Form

    Coming Soon:

    Customer access to tips and instructional videos, method notes, tutorials, application notes, and other content to support your research.


    Service Engineer opening for Micro-CT Systems

    We are looking for a service engineer to join our team of experts in helping advance research by providing technical support and maintenance for micro-CT systems across the United States.

    Please submit resumes to: info@microphotonics.com

    Micro Photonics Inc.
    1550 Pond Road, STE 110
    Allentown, PA 18104



    WVC Annual Conference

    Las Vegas, NV
    February 19-21
    Booth 1484

    Privacy Policy

    What information do we collect? We collect information from you when you register on our site, place an order, subscribe to our newsletter or fill out a form. When ordering or registering on our site, as appropriate, you may be asked to enter your: name, e-mail address, mailing address, phone number or credit card information. You may, however, visit our site anonymously.
    What do we use your information for? Any of the information we collect from you may be used in one of the following ways:

    ; To personalize your experience (your information helps us to better respond to your individual needs).

    ; To improve customer service (your information helps us to more effectively respond to your customer service requests and support needs).

    ; To process transactions. Your information, whether public or private, will not be sold, exchanged, transferred, or given to any other company for any reason whatsoever, without your consent, other than for the express purpose of delivering the purchased product or service requested.

    ; To send periodic emails .The email address you provide for order processing, will only be used to send you information and updates pertaining to your order.Note: If at any time you would like to unsubscribe from receiving future emails, we include detailed unsubscribe instructions at the bottom of each email.

    Terms and Conditions

    Terms of Service for www.microphotonics.com

    Introduction. Welcome to www.microphotonics.com. This website is owned and operated by Micro Photonics Inc. By visiting our website and accessing the information, resources, services, products, and tools we provide, you understand and agree to accept and adhere to the following terms and conditions as stated in this policy (hereafter referred to as ‘User Agreement’), along with the terms and conditions as stated in our Privacy Policy (please refer to the Privacy Policy section below for more information).

    This agreement is in effect as of October 25, 2018.

    We reserve the right to change this User Agreement from time to time without notice. You acknowledge and agree that it is your responsibility to review this User Agreement periodically to familiarize yourself with any modifications. Your continued use of this site after such modifications will constitute acknowledgment and agreement of the modified terms and conditions.

    Responsible Use and Conduct. By visiting our website and accessing the information, resources, services, products, and tools we provide for you, either directly or indirectly (hereafter referred to as ‘Resources’), you agree to use these Resources only for the purposes intended as permitted by (a) the terms of this User Agreement, (b) the terms of any applicable confidentiality, non-disclosure, or other agreement between you and a third party, and (c) applicable laws, regulations and generally accepted online practices or guidelines.

    Call Now Button