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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T034238/1
Title: Sporadic diffraction and absorption volumetric X-ray imaging
Principal Investigator: Evans, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Rogers, Professor K
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Adaptix Ltd Cobalt Health Defence Science & Tech Lab DSTL
HALO X-ray Technologies Ltd STFC Laboratories (Grouped)
Department: School of Science & Technology
Organisation: Nottingham Trent University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 February 2021 Ends: 31 January 2024 Value (£): 1,026,893
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Jun 2020 EPSRC Physical Sciences - June 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project will bring exciting advances to X-ray imaging by revealing the true nature of materials buried in 3-dimensional scans. The main limitation of conventional X-ray absorption imaging is that the image forming signals are a function of the attenuation coefficient, which tells us almost nothing about the chemical or crystallographic structure of the object under inspection. However, it is well understood that if diffracted flux, rather than the transmitted X-rays, is collected then slice images may be reconstructed using similar algorithms to conventional computed tomography (CT). The measurement of the energy or wavelength of the diffracted X-rays together with their associated diffraction angles enables the calculation of crystallographic parameters to identify, for example, the material phase of a sample.

Scientists and engineers routinely measure diffracted flux from carefully prepared samples in instruments called diffractometers. Typically, this 'molecular fingerprinting' process uses relatively soft radiation and long inspection times of which both are impractical for security and in vivo diagnostic imaging. Despite significant efforts over the decades, there is little evidence of the 'gold standard' specificity and sensitivity achieved in laboratory settings being realised in time critical, commercially viable 3-dimensional imaging technologies. For example, the security screening industry has recognised the potential for X-ray diffraction as a 'gold standard' probe since the early 1990s. The challenge in this sector includes identifying powders, liquids, aerosols, and gels buried amongst the clutter of everyday objects in security scans of luggage. State-of-the-art CT spectroscopic scanners are limited fundamentally and are unable to deal adequately with homemade explosives.

A main limitation of using diffracted radiation is that the signals are often orders of magnitude weaker in comparison with the primary incident beam. This fundamental limitation leads to long inspection times i.e. minutes or hours per point measurement, which in general is impractical for imaging. We have previously demonstrated a focal construct geometry (FCG) method where a hollow or conical shell beam produces high-intensity patterns or caustics in the diffracted flux from a sample. The bright caustics enable high-speed measurements that can be deconvoluted to form depth-resolved sectional images. Our novel method enables spatial features much smaller than the diameter of the interrogating beam to be resolved accurately in the reconstructed images. In keeping with standard computed tomography, FCG tomography in absorption and diffraction both use similar reconstruction principles.

In this project, we propose reducing the total number of X-ray measurements and X-ray dose by more than 90% by applying sporadic sampling to FCG absorption/diffraction signals. We use a state-of-the-art flat panel X-ray source with multiple X-ray emission points optically coupled to energy resolving detectors. We treat the array of emitters as a virtual or spatially offset linear array (SOLA) to implement sporadic sampling independently of the minimum separation between emitter points (limited by the emitter physics) and to minimise crosstalk between measurements. We expect our method to enable the collection of diffraction and absorption signals at the same scan rate to realise depth-resolved material specific imaging. A successful demonstration of our method would establish a platform technology scalable in both X-ray energy and inspection space. This work will maintain the UK at the forefront of these unique and exciting scientific developments in security and diagnostic imaging.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ntu.ac.uk