Performance assessment of methods for estimation of fractal dimension from scanning electron microscope images



Processing of gray scale images in order to determine the corresponding fractal dimension is very important due to widespread use of imaging technologies and application of fractal analysis in many areas of science, technology, and medicine. To this end, many methods for estimation of fractal dimension from gray scale images have been developed and routinely used. Unfortunately different methods (dimension estimators) often yield significantly different results in a manner that makes interpretation difficult. Here, we report results of comparative assessment of performance of several most frequently used algorithms/methods for estimation of fractal dimension. To that purpose, we have used scanning electron microscope images of aluminum oxide surfaces with different fractal dimensions. The performance of algorithms/methods was evaluated using the statistical Z-score approach. The differences between performances of six various methods are discussed and further compared with results obtained by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy on the same samples. The analysis of results shows that the performance of investigated algorithms varies considerably and that systematically erroneous fractal dimensions could be estimated using certain methods. The differential cube counting, triangulation, and box counting algorithms showed satisfactory performance in the whole investigated range of fractal dimensions. Difference statistic is proved to be less reliable generating 4% of unsatisfactory results. The performances of the Power spectrum, Partitioning and EIS were unsatisfactory in 29%, 38%, and 75% of estimations, respectively. The results of this study should be useful and provide guidelines to researchers using/attempting fractal analysis of images obtained by scanning microscopy or atomic force microscopy. SCANNING 35:402–411, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc