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Med Phys. 2008 Mar;35(3):968-81.

X-ray imaging performance of scintillator-filled silicon pore arrays.

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  • 1Philips Research Europe, Weisshausstr 2, 52080 Aachen, Germany. matthias.simon@philips.com

Abstract

The need for fine detail visibility in various applications such as dental imaging, mammography, but also neurology and cardiology, is the driver for intensive efforts in the development of new x-ray detectors. The spatial resolution of current scintillator layers is limited by optical diffusion. This limitation can be overcome by a pixelation, which prevents optical photons from crossing the interface between two neighboring pixels. In this work, an array of pores was etched in a silicon wafer with a pixel pitch of 50 microm. A very high aspect ratio was achieved with wall thicknesses of 4-7 microm and pore depths of about 400 microm. Subsequently, the pores were filled with Tl-doped cesium iodide (CsI:Tl) as a scintillator in a special process, which includes powder melting and solidification of the CsI. From the sample geometry and x-ray absorption measurement the pore fill grade was determined to be 75%. The scintillator-filled samples have a circular active area of 16 mm diameter. They are coupled with an optical sensor binned to the same pixel pitch in order to measure the x-ray imaging performance. The x-ray sensitivity, i.e., the light output per absorbed x-ray dose, is found to be only 2.5%-4.5% of a commercial CsI-layer of similar thickness, thus very low. The efficiency of the pores to transport the generated light to the photodiode is estimated to be in the best case 6.5%. The modulation transfer function is 40% at 4 lp/mm and 10%-20% at 8 lp/mm. It is limited most likely by the optical gap between scintillator and sensor and by K-escape quanta. The detective quantum efficiency (DQE) is determined at different beam qualities and dose settings. The maximum DQE(0) is 0.28, while the x-ray absorption with the given thickness and fill factor is 0.57. High Swank noise is suspected to be the reason, mainly caused by optical scatter inside the CsI-filled pores. The results are compared to Monte Carlo simulations of the photon transport inside the pore array structure. In addition, some x-ray images of technical and anatomical phantoms are shown. This work shows that scintillator-filled pore arrays can provide x-ray imaging with high spatial resolution, but are not suitable in their current state for most of the applications in medical imaging, where increasing the x-ray doses cannot be tolerated.

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