The capability to assess microstructural details in a polymer matrix composite is important in addressing composite design for engineering applications. The generation of three-dimensional microstructure using a non-invasive high-resolution experimental diagnostics method will advance our knowledge within this field. An inert composite has been studied, and both X-ray microtomography (XRT) for microstructural investigation in 3D and a parallel series of shock experiments (with associated modelling) have been conducted. The experimental aims of this study lay in several areas: firstly, to adequately define the bulk morphology; secondly, to determine the geometry of defects within the material; and finally, to demonstrate a direct linkage with the mechanical response determined by finite element analysis. This work is the first step in finding a way to non-invasively link 3D microstructural invesigation and numerical simulation to predict the shock performance of a composite material. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.