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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I021884/1
Title: Transforming the use of x-rays in science and society
Principal Investigator: Olivo, Professor A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
3D X-Ray Ltd Barts Health NHS Trust Canon Medical Research Europe Ltd
Creatv MicroTech Dexela Ltd Diamond Light Source
European Synch Radiation Facility - ESRF Imperial College London MARS Bioimaging Ltd
Nikon Oregon Health and Science University QinetiQ
Queen Mary University of London Rigaku Sincrotrone Trieste SCpA
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Department: Medical Physics and Biomedical Eng
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2011 Ends: 31 October 2016 Value (£): 1,049,890
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
05 Oct 2010 Challenging Engineering M3E 2010 Deferred
09 Dec 2010 Challenging Engineering M3E Interviews Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project aims to build a research group to drive a transformation in the use of x-rays in science and society by replacing the mechanism upon which this has been based for over a century, x-ray absorption. X-rays are electromagnetic waves, and are therefore characterized not only by their amplitude, which is changed by absorption, but also by their phase. Pioneering experiments carried out in the nineties at large and expensive facilities called synchrotrons showed that phase effects can solve the main problem of x-ray imaging, low image contrast due to small absorption differences. This both enhances the visibility of all details in an image, and allows the detection of features invisible to conventional x-ray methods. The benefits this could bring to fields as diverse as medicine, biology, material science, etc were immediately understood, but an effective translation into real-world applications failed because it looked like using a synchrotron was necessary to obtain significant image enhancements.Recently, the PI developed a technique (coded-aperture phase contrast imaging) which showed that this is not true. This technique allows achieving advantages comparable to those obtained at synchrotrons with conventional x-ray sources. This makes the above transformation a concrete possibility for the first time.Although a complete transformation will take longer than the five years of the project, we will seed it by running a series of pilot experiments which will:1) explore the potential of the proposed approach and adapt it to applications in a variety of important fields;2) develop new scientific instruments allowing studies which until now were only possible at synchrotrons to be carried out in conventional labs;3) develop new x-ray methods which will allow the investigation of new scientific fields currently inaccessible.The technique invented by the PI will be applied in new areas of medicine, security, material science, and others. In medicine, we will tackle problems such as imaging blood vessels without contrast agents, enabling earlier detection of breast and other cancers and of osteoporosis, and developing new contrast agents to allow physiological studies with x-rays. We will develop strategies to substantially reduce x-ray dose, which would make radiology safer and allow the expansion of screening campaigns. In security, we will improve threat detection and material recognition. In material science, we will develop tools to detect defects in new materials (e.g. composites, the basis of future aerospace and transport industry, currently posing a challenge to existing test tools) and to allow earlier detection of cracks and corrosion in metals and defects in plastics.Phase-based x-ray scanners will be developed to enable microscopic studies of cells and detection of plaques and metal concentration in tissues in a conventional laboratory setting. X-ray phase methods will be combined with other, functional imaging modalities to develop a new generation of small-animal scanners which will be used in biology and drug development.At synchrotrons, we will combine the increased phase sensitivity of the method developed by the PI with other, cutting-edge methods to push the sensitivity of phase techniques further. These methods will be used to study important scientific areas currently inaccessible, e.g. the mechanisms of tumour invasion.The group will disseminate the obtained results both to specialized audiences (through scientific publications and conference presentations) and to the general public (through public engagement activities). We will collaborate with industry to ensure that the outcome of the applied elements of the research programme are taken to the exploitation stage, and therefore that its full impact is realized. The group will become a world-leading team and produce a step change in x-ray science and its application, to the benefit of society as a whole and UK plc in particular.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL: http://www.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/research/acadradphys/researchactivities/pci.htm
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