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Ann Biomed Eng. 2011 Apr;39(4):1358-77. doi: 10.1007/s10439-011-0266-9. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Application of silicon photomultipliers to positron emission tomography.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering-GBSF 2603, University of California-Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Historically, positron emission tomography (PET) systems have been based on scintillation crystals coupled to photomultipliers tubes (PMTs). However, the limited quantum efficiency, bulkiness, and relatively high cost per unit surface area of PMTs, along with the growth of new applications for PET, offers opportunities for other photodetectors. Among these, small-animal scanners, hybrid PET/MRI systems, and incorporation of time-of-flight information are of particular interest and require low-cost, compact, fast, and magnetic field compatible photodetectors. With high quantum efficiency and compact structure, avalanche photodiodes (APDs) overcome several of the drawbacks of PMTs, but this is offset by degraded signal-to-noise and timing properties. Silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) offer an alternative solution, combining many of the advantages of PMTs and APDs. They have high gain, excellent timing properties and are insensitive to magnetic fields. At the present time, SiPM technology is rapidly developing and therefore an investigation into optimal design and operating conditions is underway together with detailed characterization of SiPM-based PET detectors. Published data are extremely promising and show good energy and timing resolution, as well as the ability to decode small scintillator arrays. SiPMs clearly have the potential to be the photodetector of choice for some, or even perhaps most, PET systems.

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