Due to detector developments in the last decade, the time-of-flight (TOF) method is now commonly used to improve the quality of positron emission tomography (PET) images. Clinical TOF-PET systems based on L(Y)SO:Ce crystals and silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) with coincidence resolving times (CRT) between 325 ps and 400 ps FWHM have recently been developed. Before the introduction of L(Y)SO:Ce, BGO was used in many PET systems. In addition to a lower price, BGO offers a superior attenuation coefficient and a higher photoelectric fraction than L(Y)SO:Ce. However, BGO is generally considered an inferior TOF-PET scintillator. In recent years, TOF-PET detectors based on the Cherenkov effect have been proposed. However, the low Cherenkov photon yield in the order of ∼10 photons per event complicates energy discrimination-a severe disadvantage in clinical PET. The optical characteristics of BGO, in particular its high transparency down to 310 nm and its high refractive index of ∼2.15, are expected to make it a good Cherenkov radiator. Here, we study the feasibility of combining event timing based on Cherenkov emission with energy discrimination based on scintillation in BGO, as a potential approach towards a cost-effective TOF-PET detector. Rise time measurements were performed using a time-correlated single photon counting (TCSPC) setup implemented on a digital photon counter (DPC) array, revealing a prompt luminescent component likely to be due to Cherenkov emission. Coincidence timing measurements were performed using BGO crystals with a cross-section of 3 mm × 3 mm and five different lengths between 3 mm and 20 mm, coupled to DPC arrays. Non-Gaussian coincidence spectra with a FWHM of 200 ps were obtained with the 27 mm3 BGO cubes, while FWHM values as good as 330 ps were achieved with the 20 mm long crystals. The FWHM value was found to improve with decreasing temperature, while the FWTM value showed the opposite trend.
- positron emission tomography
- silicon photomultiplier