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Imaging ultra-small angle x-ray scattering with edge-illumination: exploiting sub-pixel information in medical diagnostics, materials science and security screening

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EI-USAXS (Imaging ultra-small angle x-ray scattering with edge-illumination: exploiting sub-pixel information in medical diagnostics, materials science and security screening)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2017-05-31

X-ray scattering refers to the property of an x-ray beam to be broadened while it passes through an homogeneous sample. Cutting edge x-ray imaging methods such as edge-illumination have been demonstrated to provide the x-ray scattering signal. Since scattering is related to structures smaller than the pixel size, its utilisation provides the tantalizing possibility to reduce acquisition time or to significantly reduce radiation dose. Exploiting the newly available scattering contrast could revolutionize several applications of x-rays including production monitoring, security screening and medical diagnostics.

The goal of the fellowship was to translate a previously established approach to data analysis that provided an extended number of scattering contrast modalities to an x-ray imaging method called edge-illumination. Further, the theoretical understanding was to be improved, which will be vital for the correct interpretation of available contrasts. Finally, the applicability of this novel approach to several high impact samples from different research fields was to be investigated.
The work included the achievement of four major objectives. First, the novel data analysis approach was successfully applied to edge-illumination, demonstrating that the extended contrast modalities were in fact complementary. Second, the theoretical understanding was advanced, which allows a quantitative over a mere qualitative interpretation of the available x-ray scattering contrast in terms of the sample's micro-structure. Third, this new understanding was applied to different powders, which resulted in one of the first quantitative measurements of its kind. Last, the new approach was applied to the differentiation between a healthy and a diseased mouse lung (see image), which lead to an easy distinction between those two groups with unprecedented low radiation doses.
The obtained results will be of high relevance for several applications. Most notably, the demonstrated capability of the novel approach to x-ray scattering to readily detect lung structure abnormalities in murine models at low doses opens the possibility for longitudinal over transversal studies. This allows to follow pulmonary disease progression and the effect of drugs in individual animals, which will dramatically improve the turnover for this research, provide the researcher with a more detailed picture and significantly reduce the number of animals required. Second, the newly established capability for quantitative measurements with x-ray scattering will allow rapid production monitoring of powder- and foam-like parts. Further, this will increase the positive identification of explosives in security screening.
Differentiation of healthy and diseased lungs with x-ray scattering