The main shortcoming of conventional biomedical x-ray imaging is the weak soft-tissue contrast caused by the small differences in the absorption coefficients between different materials. This issue can be addressed by x-ray phasesensitive imaging approaches, e.g. x-ray Talbot-Lau grating interferometry. The advantage of the three-grating Talbot-Lau approach is that it allows to acquire x-ray phase-contrast and dark-field images with a conventional lab source. However, through the introduction of the grating interferometer some constraints are imposed on the setup geometry. In general, the grating pitch and the mean x-ray energy determine the setup dimensions. The minimal length of the setup increases linearly with energy and is proportional to p2, where p is the grating pitch. Thus, a high-energy (100 keV) compact grating-based setup for x-ray imaging can be realized only if gratings with aspect-ratio of approximately 300 and a pitch of 1-2 μm were available. However, production challenges limit the availability of such gratings. In this study we consider the use of non-binary phase-gratings as means of designing a more compact grating interferometer for phase-contrast imaging. We present simulation and experimental data for both monochromatic and polychromatic case. The results reveal that phase-gratings with triangular-shaped structures yield visibilities that can be used for imaging purposes at significantly shorter distances than binary gratings. This opens the possibility to design a high-energy compact setup for x-ray phase-contrast imaging. Furthermore, we discuss different techniques to achieve triangular-shaped phase-shifting structures.
X-ray phase contrast imaging has become a promising biomedical imaging technique for enhancing soft-tissue contrast. In addition to an absorption contrast image it provides two more types of image, a phase contrast and a small-angle scattering contrast image recorded at the same time. In biomedical imaging their combination allows for the conventional investigation of e.g. bone fractures on the one hand and for soft-tissue investigation like cancer detection on the other hand. Among the different methods of X-ray phase contrast imaging the grating based approach, the Talbot-Lau interferometry, has the highest potential for commercial use in biomedical imaging at the moment, because commercially available X-ray sources can be used in a compact setup. In Talbot-Lau interferometers, core elements are phase and absorption gratings with challenging specifications because of their high aspect ratios (structure height over width). For the long grating lamellas structural heights of more than 100 μm together with structural width in the micron range are requested. We are developing a fabrication process based on deep x-ray lithography and electroforming (LIGA) to fabricate these challenging structures. In case of LIGA gratings the structural area is currently limited to several centimeters by several centimeters which limit the field of view in grating based X-ray phase contrast imaging. In order to increase the grating area significantly we are developing a stitching method for gratings using a 625 μm thick silicon wafer as a carrier substrate. In this work we compare the silicon carrier with an alternative one, polyimide, for patient dose reduction and for the use at lower energies in terms of transmission and image reconstruction problems.
Today’s commercial X-ray micro computed tomography (CT) specimen systems are based on microfocus sources,
2D pixel array cameras and short source-to-detector distances (i.e. cone-beam configurations). High resolution
is achieved by means of geometric magnification. The further development of such devices to acquire phase and
scattering contrast images can dramatically enhance their range of applications. Due to the compact geometries,
which imply a highly diverging beam, the gratings must be curved to maintain highest imaging performance
over a large field of view. We report about the implementation of extremely compact Talbot and Talbot-
Lau type grating interferometers which are compatible to the geometry of typical micro CT systems. For the
analytical description of the imaging system, formulas are presented describing the dependency of the sensitivity
on geometric parameters, camera and source parameters. Further, the imaging pipeline consisting of the data
acquisition protocol, radiographic phase retrieval and tomographic image reconstruction is illustrated. The
reported methods open the way for an immediate integration of phase and scattering contrast imaging on table
top X-ray micro CT scanners.