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New technology sharpens X-ray vision
Date:1/20/2008

This release is available in French and German.

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the EPFL in Switzerland have developed a novel method for producing dark-field x-ray images at wavelengths used in typical medical and industrial imaging equipment.

Dark-field images provide more detail than ordinary x-ray radiographs and could be used to diagnose the onset of osteoporosis, breast cancer or Alzheimers disease, to identify explosives in hand luggage, or to pinpoint hairline cracks or corrosion in functional structures.

Up until this point, dark-field x-ray imaging required sophisticated optics and could only be produced at facilities like the PSIs 300m-diameter, $200 million synchrotron. With the new nanostructured gratings described in this research, published online January 20 in Nature Materials, dark-field images could soon be produced using ordinary x-ray equipment already in place in hospitals and airports around the world.

Unlike traditional x-ray images, which show a simple absorption contrast, dark-field images capture the scattering of the radiation within the material itself, exposing subtle inner changes in bone, soft tissue, or alloys. The overall clarity of the images is striking. The improved sensitivity in measuring bone density and hairline fractures could help diagnose the onset of osteoporosis. Because cancer or plaque cells scatter radiation slightly differently than normal cells, dark-field x-ray images can also be used to explore soft tissue, providing safer early diagnosis of breast cancer or the plaques associated with Alzheimers disease.

Security screening equipment equipped with dark-field image capability could better identify explosives, whose micro-crystalline structures strongly scatter x-ray radiation. An
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Contact: Franz Pfeiffer
franz.pfeiffer@epfl.ch
41-763-201-045
Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne
Source:Eurekalert  

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