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 A miniature synchrotron for your home lab

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Date posted: 09/01/2009

A synchrotron is a type of X-ray machine, which pours intense X-rays through a target structure, mapping it voxel by voxel in 3D. Historically, they have been leviathan structures with specialised research labs built round them. Not safe to user on living tissue because of the intense radiation involved, synchrotrons have been niche tools at best.

Now, Lyncean Technologies, a US firm, have created a radically scaled down version, which behaves a lot like a standard 3D scanner, building up a precise image voxel by voxel, by multiple focussed beams from different angles, dissecting the target structure. Because so many beams are used, the individual dosages can be lower. Scanning from different angles, reduces the depth of tissue necessary to penetrate.

The prototype fits inside a 10x25 ft room, of the kind typically devoted to MRI machines, as opposed to having a multi storey building constructed around it.

The Compact Light Source prototype effort was funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program as an advanced technology related to the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI). The CLS technology is based on an electron beam stored in a miniature storage ring colliding repeatedly with an opposing infrared light pulse stored in a high-finesse cavity. Each collision produces x-rays through inverse Compton scattering.

The first scientific publication using the CLS x-ray beam employs a technique called Differential Phase Contrast Imaging (DPCI) developed by Professor Franz Pfeiffer and collaborators at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland. DPCI uses a pair of micron-scale gratings to create two images, one sensitive to the phase of the x-ray wave front and the other sensitive to the local scattering power. This technique has been primarily developed at x-ray beam lines in large synchrotrons, and it relies on a small point-like x-ray source to achieve the coherence necessary for the fringes.

Prof. Pfeiffer explained the motivation for imaging with the CLS x-ray beam, "High-resolution, soft-tissue imaging has been pursued at the large synchrotrons for the past 15 years, but to be useful to the biomedical community, the new methods must be able to use x-ray sources that are laboratory or clinical in scale. Differential Phase Contrast Imaging can use the full intensity of the CLS beam and can take advantage of its tiny source size and moderate divergence to image a field of view in the 10 cm range with very small pixel size. This will first open research and development applications such as small animal imaging, the study of tumour growth models or the development of Alzheimer's plaques in brain samples. Clinical applications might extend from mammography to osteoarthritis."

"We are only just beginning to exploit the benefits of the CLS for DPCI," continued Pfeiffer, "The JSR paper shows results from the very first experiments using the CLS for DPCI. Since then, we have also performed the first computed tomography using the CLS x-ray beam, and we are planning our next round of experiments this spring with higher x-ray energy (20 keV), higher intensity, and finer resolution."

See the full Story via external site: www.physorg.com

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