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To improve the quality of X-ray images while reducing the radiation dose, a team of physicists has copied the structure of the moth eye.

Moths have large compound eyes consisting of thousands of individual cornea-and-lens structures connected to photoreceptor cells. Those eyes are remarkably anti-reflective, bouncing back very little of the light that strikes them.

A team of researchers has copied that property to improve the light-capturing efficiency of X-ray machines and other medical imaging devices.

“The moth eye has been considered one of the most exciting bio structures because of its unique nano-optical properties,” said Yasha Yi-a, PhD, of the Integrated Nanophotonics Laboratory, a joint project of The City University of New York and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Yi leads the moth eye X-ray project. He continued:

Our work further improved upon this fascinating structure and demonstrated its use in medical imaging materials, where it promises to achieve lower patient radiation doses, higher-resolution imaging of human organs, and even smaller-scale medical imaging.

Dr. Yi was quoted in a news release from The Optical Society. An article about the research was published today in Optics Letters.

The researchers focused on the scintillation material that absorbs the energy of X-ray photons exiting the body and reemits it in the form of visible light picked up by a detector to form an image. The more light the scintillator can extract, the less X-ray energy a scanner requires to create a high-quality image.

The researchers created an extremely thin film, just 500 nanometers thick, encrusted with tiny silicon nitride bumps, mimicking the structure of a moth eye. Adding the film to the scintillator of an X-ray mammography machine increased the intensity of the emitted light as much as 175 percent compared to that produced with a conventional scintillator.

The research is currently in the proof-of-concept stage. Dr. Yi estimated that it would be at least three to five years before the new film would reach clinical use.

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On this American Independence Day, amid the grilling and fireworks and other celebratory goings-on, we’ll take time to reflect on the privileges and benefits that our country confers on us, and to appreciate the contributions of those who sacrificed to make it that kind of country. Thanks to them. And thanks to you for reading Radiology Daily.

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