Researchers improve detection and imaging technology materials – ScienceDaily


A team of Florida State University researchers has developed a new generation of organic and inorganic hybrid materials that can improve image quality in X-ray machines, CT scans and other radiation detection and imaging technologies.

Professor Biwu Ma of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and colleagues have developed a new class of materials that can act as highly efficient scintillators, which emit light after being exposed to other forms of high-energy radiation, such as X-rays.

The team’s latest study is published in Advanced materials, is an improvement on their previous research to develop a better shimmer. The new design concept produces materials that can emit light within nanoseconds, orders of magnitude faster than previously developed materials, allowing for better imaging.

“Reducing the radioluminescence decay lifetime of the flashing lamps to nanoseconds is a significant achievement,” Ma said. “Using a hybrid material of organic and inorganic components means that each component can be used in the part of the process where it is most effective.”

Flashes are used in all kinds of photography applications. Healthcare settings, security x-rays, radiation detectors, and other technologies use them and will benefit from better image quality.

The new generation of metal-organic halide hybrid scintillators developed by Ma’s team contains several improvements over existing ones. In addition to the significantly better radioluminescence response, the fabrication process is simpler than that used in other scintillation devices, and it uses plentiful and cheap materials.

Think of shimmer as a kind of translator between two types of energy, that takes some form of high-energy radiation, like X-rays, and converts it into visible light. Less radiation passes through the denser parts of an object, and this difference can be used to distinguish higher-density objects, such as bone or metal, from lower-density objects, such as soft tissues. The radiation passing through an object then interacts with a scintillator, generating visible light that a sensor detects to form an image.

Today’s scintillators mainly use inorganic materials to convert high-energy radiation into visible light to produce images. These materials are solid, use rare earth elements, and require energy-intensive, high-temperature manufacturing processes.

Ma and his team have been working on zero-dimensional organic-metal-halide hybrids, which they’ve conducted groundbreaking research with since 2018. These organic-inorganic hybrids consist of small groups of negatively charged inorganic components, called metal halide groups, and positively charged organic molecules. They are “zero dimensional” at the molecular level because the metal halide groups are completely isolated and surrounded by organic molecules.

In the first version of scintillators based on this material, metal halides absorb high-energy radiation and emit visible light. In this latest iteration, the metal halide components and organic molecules work together. Metal halides absorb high-energy radiation and transfer the energy to organic components that emit visible light.

Light emissions from organic molecules occur on a nanosecond scale, much faster than the microseconds or milliseconds required for metal halides to emit light.

“The faster the radioluminescence decays, the more accurately you can measure the timing of photon emissions,” said Ma. “This results in higher resolution and contrast in the images.”

With the help of Virginia State University’s Office of Marketing, Ma and his team have filed patents on hybrid metal-organic halide scintillators. The bureau’s GAP commercial investment program has provided funding for technology development for potential partnerships with private companies, which would make scintillation devices more widely available.

“This is a continuation of our quest for better materials over the years, from 2018, when we first discovered this class of materials, to 2020, when we first used it for luminescence,” Ma said. “This is another major breakthrough.”

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation and Florida State University.

The first author of this paper was FSU graduate student Tunde Blessed Shonde. Other co-authors are Maya Shaaban, Hey Liu, Oluadara Joshua Olsopo, Azza Ben Akasha, and Fabiola J. University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


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