The Accuracy of Cerenkov Photons Simulation in Geant4/Gate Depends on the Parameterization of Primary Electron Propagation

Carlotta Trigila, Gerard Ariño‐Estrada, Sun Il Kwon, Emilie Roncali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Energetic electrons traveling in a dispersive medium can produce Cerenkov radiation. Cerenkov photons’ prompt emission, combined with their predominantly forward emission direction with respect to the parent electron, makes them extremely promising to improve radiation detector timing resolution. Triggering gamma detections based on Cerenkov photons to achieve superior timing resolution is challenging due to the low number of photons produced per interaction. Monte Carlo simulations are fundamental to understanding their behavior and optimizing their pathway to detection. Therefore, accurately modeling the electron propagation and Cerenkov photons emission is crucial for reliable simulation results. In this work, we investigated the physics characteristics of the primary electrons (velocity, energy) and those of all emitted Cerenkov photons (spatial and timing distributions) generated by 511 keV photoelectric interactions in a bismuth germanate crystal using simulations with Geant4/GATE. Geant4 uses a stepwise particle tracking approach, and users can limit the electron velocity change per step. Without limiting it (default Geant4 settings), an electron mean step length of ∼250 μm was obtained, providing only macroscopic modeling of electron transport, with all Cerenkov photons emitted in the forward direction with respect to the incident gamma direction. Limiting the electron velocity change per step reduced the electron mean step length (∼0.200 μm), leading to a microscopic approach to its transport which more accurately modeled the electron physical properties in BGO at 511 keV. The electron and Cerenkov photons rapidly lost directionality, affecting Cerenkov photons’ transport and, ultimately, their detection. Results suggested that a deep understanding of low energy physics is crucial to perform accurate optical Monte Carlo simulations and ultimately use them in TOF PET detectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number891602
JournalFrontiers in Physics
StatePublished - Apr 28 2022


  • Cerenkov photons
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • positron emission tomography
  • radiation detector
  • timing resolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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