Spectral propagation-based x-ray phase-contrast computed tomography

Florian Schaff, James A. Pollock, Kaye S. Morgan, Marcus J. Kitchen

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Purpose: Propagation-based x-ray imaging (PBI) is a phase-contrast technique that is employed in high-resolution imaging by introducing some distance between sample and detector. PBI causes characteristic intensity fringes that have to be processed with appropriate phase-retrieval algorithms, which has historically been a difficult task for objects composed of several different materials. Spectral x-ray imaging has been introduced to PBI to overcome this issue and to potentially utilize the spectral nature of the data for material-specific imaging. We aim to explore the potential of spectral PBI in three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) imaging in this work. Approach: We demonstrate phase-retrieval for experimental high-resolution spectral propagation-based CT data of a simple two-component sample, as well as a multimaterial capacitor test sample. Phase-retrieval was performed using an algorithm based on the Alvarez-Macovski model. Virtual monochromatic (VMI) and effective atomic number images were calculated after phase-retrieval. Results: Phase-retrieval results from the spectral data set show a distinct gray-level for each material with no residual phase-contrast fringes. Several representations of the phase-retrieved data are provided. The VMI is used to display an attenuation-equivalent image at a chosen display energy of 80 keV, to provide good separation of materials with minimal noise. The effective atomic number image shows the material composition of the sample. Conclusions: Spectral photon-counting detector technology has already been shown to be compatible with spectral PBI, and there is a foreseeable need for robust phase-retrieval in high-resolution, spectral x-ray CT in the future. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of phase-retrieval for spectral PBI CT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number031506
JournalJournal of Medical Imaging
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • computed tomography
  • effective atomic number
  • electron density
  • phase retrieval
  • spectral imaging
  • x-ray phase contrast

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