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More efficient imager for nuclear medicine under development

STANFORD -- The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center has signed a cooperative agreement with Digirad (formerly Aurora Technologies Corp.) to develop a high-efficiency imager for nuclear medicine.

The new digital design is expected to improve the efficiency of current imagers. That means imagers could provide X-ray images of the human body at a lower dose. Another advantage is the fact that the electronics chip and the detector array are designed separately and combined into an integrated package. As a result, similar electronics could be incorporated with different detectors into systems optimized for environmental monitoring, industrial radiography or mammography as well as for nuclear medicine.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement was signed on Nov. 14, 1994. During the nine-month, $214,000 project, funded jointly by Digirad and the Department of Energy, Digirad will develop the X-ray detector array while SLAC will design and build the "readout" electronics.

SLAC has spearheaded the development of fine-grained detectors that can track the large numbers of electrically charged particles produced during collisions at the heart of its massive particle accelerators. These "vertex" detectors have the characteristics of low- noise operation, high throughput and fine spatial resolution. In addition, the design incorporates a self-triggering feature that provides imaging data in a manner similar to the way in which the scintillation and crystal counters commonly used for X-ray detection in nuclear medicine and digital radiography operate.

Digirad's expertise in cadmium-zinc-telluride material allows the fabrication of detector arrays that operate in the higher-energy X-ray range needed in many applications, including nuclear medicine and industrial radiography. This expertise, and the company's commercial goal of developing state-of-the-art digital imaging systems in medicine, formed the basis for the technology transfer collaboration with SLAC.

This agreement capitalizes on the fact that the SLAC readout arrays can be bonded to detector arrays of different sizes and materials. Consequently, the X-ray detection efficiency of readout arrays can be optimized for different applications. It also provides a framework for SLAC to move from the fabrication of small prototype structures to the fabrication of larger arrays that allow other useful applications not only to high-energy physics but also to digital radiography in medicine and to environmental chemistry.

Digirad is a small business located in San Diego, Calif. A major goal of this company is to develop, manufacture and market solid-state imaging instrumentation made out of cadmium-zinc-telluride material for cancer therapy and other applications.



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