A team of researchers and engineers at Prismatic Sensors AB have developed a revolutionary new way to capture and analyze X-rays that promises to significantly boost the imaging power of computed tomography (CT) scanners.

Using hypersensitive silicon X-ray detectors and a technique called “photon counting”, the new method can potentially let doctors see deep inside the human body with greater clarity while exposing patients to less radiation than conventional CT scans.

Image credit: GE Reports.

Computed tomography scanners use X-rays to make cross-sectional images of the body, slicing it virtually like a loaf of bread and enabling physicians to, for instance, spot a tumor. But CT scanners can run up against limitations, such as resolution and radiation dose — and that’s where photon-counting CT scanners could make a difference.

Scientists and engineers have been trying to perfect photon-counting CT for decades. Detectors made from silicon were particularly promising, but they also presented daunting technical challenges.

Then a chance encounter in 2015 between GE scientists and Mats Danielsson, CEO of Prismatic Sensors, led to a breakthrough. With his colleagues, Danielsson figured out the “Deep Silicon” technology that is at the heart of the new photon-counting detector.

In an indication of how important the promise of this technology is, in 2020 GE Healthcare announced plans to acquire Prismatic — GE’s first acquisition since Larry Culp became the company’s chairman and CEO in 2018.