Purpose: We present a novel gamma-ray-detector design based on total internal reflection (TIR) of scintillation photons within a crystal that addresses many limitations of traditional PET detectors. Our approach has appealing features, including submillimeter lateral resolution, DOI positioning from layer thickness, and excellent energy resolution. The design places light sensors on the edges of a stack of scintillator slabs separated by small air gaps and exploits the phenomenon that more than 80% of scintillation light emitted during a gamma-ray event reaches the edges of a thin crystal with polished faces due to TIR. Gamma-ray stopping power is achieved by stacking multiple layers, and DOI is determined by which layer the gamma ray interacts in. Method: The concept of edge readouts of a thin slab was verified by Monte Carlo simulation of scintillation light transport. An LYSO crystal of dimensions 50.8 mm × 50.8 mm × 3.0 mm was modeled with five rectangular SiPMs placed along each edge face. The mean-detector-response functions (MDRFs) were calculated by simulating signals from 511 keV gamma-ray interactions in a grid of locations. Simulations were carried out to study the influence of choice of scintillator material and dimensions, gamma-ray photon energies, introduction of laser or mechanically induced optical barriers (LIOBs, MIOBs), and refractive indices of optical-coupling media and SiPM windows. We also analyzed timing performance including influence of gamma-ray interaction position and presence of optical barriers. We also modeled and built a prototype detector, a 27.4 mm × 27.4 mm × 3.0 mm CsI(Tl) crystal with 4 SiPMs per edge to experimentally validate the results predicted by the simulations. The prototype detector used CsI(Tl) crystals from Proteus outfitted with 16 Hamamatsu model S13360-6050PE MPPCs read out by an AiT-16-channel readout. The MDRFs were measured by scanning the detector with a collimated beam of 662-keV photons from a 137Cs source. The spatial resolution was experimentally determined by imaging a tungsten slit that created a beam of 0.44 mm (FWHM) width normal to the detector surface. The energy resolution was evaluated by analyzing list-mode data from flood illumination by the 137Cs source. Result: We find that in a block-detector-sized LYSO layer read out by five SiPMs per edge, illuminated by 511-keV photons, the average resolution is 1.49 mm (FWHM). With the introduction of optical barriers, average spatial resolution improves to 0.56 mm (FWHM). The DOI resolution is the layer thickness of 3.0 mm. We also find that optical-coupling media and SiPM-window materials have an impact on spatial resolution. The timing simulation with LYSO crystal yields a coincidence resolving time (CRT) of 200–400 ps, which is slightly position dependent. And the introduction of optical barriers has minimum influence. The prototype CsI(Tl) detector, with a smaller area and fewer SiPMs, was measured to have central-area spatial resolutions of 0.70 and 0.39 mm without and with optical barriers, respectively. These results match well with our simulations. An energy resolution of 6.4% was achieved at 662 keV. Conclusion: A detector design based on a stack of monolithic scintillator layers that uses edge readouts offers several advantages over current block detectors for PET. For example, there is no tradeoff between spatial resolution and detection sensitivity since no reflector material displaces scintillator crystal, and submillimeter resolution can be achieved. DOI information is readily available, and excellent timing and energy resolutions are possible.
- edge readout
- optical barrier
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging