Ph.D. Defense: Vaibhav Bora

    Friday, May 15, 2015 - 9:00am
    Franken Conference Room (Meinel 821)

    "Photon Statistics in Scintillation Crystals"


    Scintillation-based gamma-ray detectors are widely used in medical imaging, high-energy physics, astronomy and national security. Scintillation gamma-ray detectors are field-tested, relatively inexpensive and have good detection efficiency. Semiconductor detectors are gaining popularity because of their superior capability to resolve gamma-ray energies. However, they are relatively hard to manufacture and therefore, at this time, not available in as large formats and much more expensive than scintillation gamma-ray detectors.

    Scintillation gamma-ray detectors consist of a scintillator, a material that emits optical (scintillation) photons when it interacts with ionization radiation, and an optical detector that detects the emitted scintillation photons and converts them into an electrical signal.

    Compared to semiconductor gamma-ray detectors, scintillation gamma-ray detectors have relatively poor capability to resolve gamma-ray energies. This is in large part attributed to the “statistical limit" on the number of scintillation photons. The origin of this statistical limit is the assumption that scintillation photons are either Poisson distributed or super-Poisson distributed. This statistical limit is often defined by the Fano factor.

    The Fano factor of an integer-valued random process is defined as the ratio of its variance to its mean. Therefore, a Poisson process has a Fano factor of one. The classical theory of light limits the Fano factor of the number of photons to a value greater than or equal to one (Poisson case). However, the quantum theory of light allows for Fano factors to be less than one.

    Bora used two methods to look at the correlations between two detectors looking at same scintillation pulse to estimate the Fano factor of the scintillation photons. The relationship between the Fano factor and the correlation between the integral of the two signals detected was analytically derived, and the Fano factor was estimated using the measurements for SrI2:Eu, YAP:Ce and CsI:Na.

    Bora also found an empirical relationship between the Fano factor and the covariance as a function of time between two detectors looking at the same scintillation pulse. This empirical model was used to estimate the Fano factor of LaBr3:Ce and YAP:Ce using the experimentally measured timing covariance. The estimates of the Fano factor from the time-covariance results were consistent with the estimates of the correlation between the integral signals.

    Bora found scintillation light from some scintillators to be sub-Poisson. For the same mean number of total scintillation photons, sub-Poisson light has lower noise. He then conducted a simulation study to investigate whether this low-noise sub-Poisson light can be used to improve spatial resolution. He calculated the Cramér-Rao bound for different detector geometries, position of interactions and Fano factors. The Cramér-Rao calculations were verified by generating simulated data and estimating the variance of the maximum likelihood estimator. He found that the Fano factor has no impact on the spatial resolution in gamma-ray imaging systems.

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