Ultrafast timing enables reconstruction-free positron emission imaging

Sun Il Kwon, Ryosuke Ota, Eric Berg, Fumio Hashimoto, Kyohei Nakajima, Izumi Ogawa, Yoichi Tamagawa, Tomohide Omura, Tomoyuki Hasegawa, Simon R. Cherry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


X-ray and gamma-ray photons are widely used for imaging but require a mathematical reconstruction step, known as tomography, to produce cross-sectional images from the measured data. Theoretically, the back-to-back annihilation photons produced by positron–electron annihilation can be directly localized in three-dimensional space using time-of-flight information without tomographic reconstruction; however, this has not yet been demonstrated due to the insufficient timing performance of available radiation detectors. Here we develop techniques based on detecting prompt Cherenkov photons, which, when combined with a convolutional neural network for timing estimation, resulted in an average timing precision of 32 ps, corresponding to a spatial precision of 4.8 mm. We show this is sufficient to produce cross-sectional images of a positron-emitting radionuclide directly from the detected coincident annihilation photons, without using any tomographic reconstruction algorithm. The reconstruction-free imaging demonstrated here directly localizes positron emission and frees the design of an imaging system from the geometric and sampling constraints that are normally present for tomographic reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNature Photonics
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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