Florida state University researchers develop next-generation hybrid materials to enhance image quality in X-ray and CT scans

Researchers from Florida State University, led by Professor Biwu Ma from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, have made significant advancements in the development of organic-inorganic hybrid materials. These materials have the potential to enhance image quality in various radiation detection and imaging technologies such as X-ray machines and CT scans.

The team’s recent study, featured in Advanced Materials, builds upon their previous research aimed at improving scintillators. Scintillators are substances that emit light when exposed to high-energy radiations like X-rays. The newly developed materials represent a novel class of scintillators that exhibit remarkable efficiency.

One key aspect of this breakthrough is the materials’ ability to emit light within nanoseconds, which is considerably faster than previously developed alternatives. This advancement enables more precise and enhanced imaging capabilities.

Professor Ma highlighted the significance of reducing the decay lifetime of radioluminescence in scintillators to the nanosecond range. The hybrid nature of these materials, combining both organic and inorganic components, allows each component to contribute to the process in the most effective manner possible.

Why is this important?

Organic metal halide hybrid scintillators, the latest innovation by Professor Biwu Ma’s research team, offer substantial advancements compared to existing alternatives in various imaging applications. These scintillators find utility in healthcare settings, security X-rays, radiation detectors, and other technologies that can benefit from enhanced image quality.

One notable advantage of the new generation of scintillators is their remarkable radioluminescence response, surpassing that of previous versions. This improvement ensures clearer and more detailed imaging results, providing valuable information for diagnostic and security purposes.

Moreover, the manufacturing process for these scintillators is simpler compared to traditional methods used for other types of scintillators. This streamlined production approach allows for cost-effective and efficient mass production, making the technology more accessible and practical for widespread implementation.

Additionally, the materials used in these organic metal halide hybrid scintillators are abundant and inexpensive. This characteristic further contributes to their viability and commercial viability, as it eliminates potential supply chain limitations and reduces overall costs.

With these advancements, Ma’s team has not only enhanced image quality but also addressed key challenges in the field of scintillator technology, making significant strides towards improving various imaging applications across different industries.

What’s different about this scintillator?

Imagine a scintillator as a mediator between different forms of energy. When exposed to high energy radiation like X-rays, it acts as a translator, converting that radiation into visible light. This conversion process is crucial for creating images. Denser parts of an object allow less radiation to pass through, while lower-density areas, such as soft tissue, allow more radiation to pass through. This difference in radiation transmission can be utilized to distinguish between higher-density objects like bones or metal and lower-density ones like soft tissue. The radiation that passes through the object then interacts with the scintillator, which produces visible light. This light is detected by a sensor, enabling the creation of an image.

Traditional scintillators predominantly employ inorganic materials to convert high-energy radiation into visible light for image production. These materials are rigid, often contain rare Earth elements, and necessitate energy-intensive, high-temperature manufacturing processes.

Professor Biwu Ma and his team have been at the forefront of pioneering research on zero-dimensional organic metal halide hybrids since 2018. These hybrids consist of small clusters of negatively charged inorganic components called metal halide clusters, surrounded by positively charged organic molecules. At the molecular level, they are “zero-dimensional” as the metal halide clusters are fully isolated within the organic molecules.

In the initial iteration of scintillators based on this material, the metal halides absorb high-energy radiation and emit visible light. In the latest advancement, the metal halide components and organic molecules synergistically cooperate. The metal halides absorb high-energy radiation and transfer energy to the organic components, which subsequently emit visible light.

Importantly, the organic molecules exhibit light emissions on a nanosecond scale, considerably faster than the microseconds or milliseconds required for the metal halides to emit light.

“The faster the decay of radioluminescence, the more precise we can measure the timing of photon emissions,” explained Ma. “That leads to higher resolution and contrast in images.”

Through these innovations, Ma and his team have not only accelerated the radioluminescence decay but also enhanced the precision, resolution, and contrast of images. This research represents a significant stride forward in the development of scintillator technology, paving the way for more advanced and efficient imaging systems.

What’s next?

Ma and his team, in collaboration with the FSU Office of Commercialization, have successfully filed patents for their groundbreaking organic metal halide hybrid scintillators. The team received funding from the office’s GAP Commercialization Investment Program, enabling them to further develop the technology and seek potential partnerships with private companies. By doing so, they aim to make these scintillators widely accessible.

Ma expressed his enthusiasm for the project, emphasizing its continuity from their earlier endeavors. Since 2018, when they initially discovered this class of materials, to 2020, when they first utilized them for scintillation purposes, the team has consistently pursued advancements in material science. This recent achievement represents yet another significant breakthrough for them.

Source: Florida State University

Leave a Comment