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Schnürle, Katrin; Bortfeldt, Jonathan; Englbrecht, Franz Siegfried; Gianoli, Chiara; Hartmann, Jens; Hofverberg, Petter; Meyer, Sebastian; Niepel, Katharina; Yohannes, Indra; Vidal, Marie; Landry, Guillaume; Hérault, Joël; Schreiber, Jörg; Parodi, Katia; Würl, Matthias (2023): Development of integration mode proton imaging with a single CMOS detector for a small animal irradiation platform. Frontiers in Physics, 10. ISSN 2296-424X

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A novel irradiation platform for preclinical proton therapy studies foresees proton imaging for accurate setup and treatment planning. Imaging at modern synchrocyclotron-based proton therapy centers with high instantaneous particle flux is possible with an integration mode setup. The aim of this work is to determine an object’s water-equivalent thickness (WET) with a commercially available large-area CMOS sensor. Image contrast is achieved by recording the proton energy deposition in detector pixels for several incoming beam energies (here, called probing energies) and applying a signal decomposition method that retrieves the water-equivalent thickness. A single planar 114 mm × 65 mm CMOS sensor (49.5 µm pixel pitch) was used for this study, aimed at small-animal imaging. In experimental campaigns, at two isochronous cyclotron-based facilities, probing energies suitable for small-animal-sized objects were produced once with built-in energy layer switching and the other time, using a custom degrader wheel. To assess water-equivalent thickness accuracy, a micro-CT calibration phantom with 10 inserts of tissue-mimicking materials was imaged at three phantom-to-detector distances: 3 mm, 13 mm, and 33 mm. For 3 mm and 13 mm phantom-to-detector distance, the average water-equivalent thickness error compared to the ground truth was about 1% and the spatial resolution was 0.16(3) mm and 0.47(2) mm, respectively. For the largest separation distance of 33 mm air gap, proton scattering had considerable impact and the water-equivalent thickness relative error increased to 30%, and the spatial resolution was larger than 1.75 mm. We conclude that a pixelated CMOS detector with dedicated post-processing methods can enable fast proton radiographic imaging in a simple and compact setup for small-animal-sized objects with high water-equivalent thickness accuracy and spatial resolution for reasonable phantom-to-detector distances.

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