Science and Technology

VOXEL, a disruptive technology enabling three-dimensional images

In the long term, this technology will enable three-dimensional images enabling 3D X-ray imaging at very low dose.

When we perform a CT scan we can’t imagine the radiation dose associated with it. VOXEL is a project developed by the Institute for Plasmas and Nuclear Fusion at Técnico, whose main goal is to minimise these damages. It is an alternative to tomography, through a disruptive technology that allows to obtain 3D images with low doses of ionizing radiation. “In the tomography we have to choose between sacrificing resolution to reduce radiation dose for patient or, over the need for a higher resolution, we have to sacrifice a little bit the patient,” explains VOXEL coordinator, Professor Marta Fajardo.

This project is based on a technology called plenoptic image, consisting of using a special photography sensor capable of recording the image and the direction of the light rays. The information is then processed to reconstruct an image in depth, from a pixel (two dimensions) to a volume element or voxel (three dimensions). “This is a multidisciplinar project, we need help in computing, mathematics, physics, optics, etc.”, explains the coordinator of VOXEL.

The funding that would be necessary to carry out the project was obtained in 2015, with the submission of VOXEL to the FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) projects within the Horizon 2020 programme, resulting in a € 3.99 million funding – of which 760,000 euros will go to Portugal, where the team leadership is located, at the IPFN laboratories.

The first demonstrations on the X-rays UV (low energy X-rays) will begin already this Summer lasting until Autumn. “After doing the first tests we will try to reconstruct the collected images”, says the IPFN researcher. Transposition to harder X-rays will be done until the end of the project.

The number of VOXEL potential applications is very wide, especially if we think in the long term, ranging from dentistry, traumatology and cancer detection. “In the near future it can be used for high-resolution tomographic microscopy in objects that can’t be over manipulated and exposed to much radiation due to their age”, explains professor Marta Fajardo.