New flexible X-ray detectors could revolutionise cancer treatment: Study

The detectors can be shaped around the objects that need to be scanned


Scientists have developed a new generation of low-cost, flexible X-ray detectors with potential applications ranging from cancer treatment to better airport scanners.

Traditionally, X-ray detectors are made of heavy, rigid material such as silicon or germanium, the researchers said.

The new detectors are cheaper and can be shaped around the objects that need to be scanned, improving accuracy when screening patients and reducing risk when imaging tumours and administering radiotherapy, they said.

"This new material is flexible, low-cost, and sensitive. But what's exciting is that this material is tissue equivalent. This paves the way for live dosimetry (measurement of radiation), which just isn't possible with current technology," said Prabodhi Nanayakkara, who led the research at the University of Surrey in the UK.

The findings are published in the journal Advanced Science.

The researchers noted that most of the X-ray detectors on the market are heavy, rigid, energy-consuming and expensive if a large area needs to be covered.

Substances built up of hydrogen and carbon, known as organic semiconductors, offer a more flexible solution, but until now, did not allow as detailed an X-ray image to be produced as traditional detectors, they said.

To solve this challenge, the researchers created devices based on an ink by adding low quantities of high atomic number elements to an organic semiconductor.

Building on the team's previous research, their new detector behaves more like human tissue under X-rays, which they say could lead to new, safer techniques for administering imaging methods such as radiotherapy, mammography and radiography.

"This new technology could be used in a variety of settings, such as radiotherapy, scanning historical artefacts and in security scanners," said Professor Ravi Silva, director of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute.

"These results are very exciting, especially considering this was the first material investigated, and there is plenty of scope for further improvements," said study co-author, Professor Martin Heeney from Imperial College London, UK.  

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp