Laboratório de Instrumentação e Física Experimental de Partículas




PET with Resistive Plate Chambers (RPC-PET)

// Instruments and methods for biomedical applications

Instrumentos e Métodos para Aplicações Biomédicas

Aim of the project

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a powerful diagnostic technique employed in functional medical imaging (molecular imaging). Our overall objective is to develop a radically new technology for TOF PET systems targeted at human whole-body scanning, with resolution down to the physical limit of the PET technique and with a sensitivity improved by over one order of magnitude with respect to current commercial systems, without increase in cost. Such breakthrough would provide physicians with superior capabilities for diagnosing and detecting oncological and other diseases and investigating disease mechanisms, potentially allowing a paradigm shift in PET clinical use.

As the basic feasibility studies have been already carried out, this project specifically aims at designing building, testing and developing a first prototype of a full-size human whole body TOF-PET scanner with a field-of-view of 2 m and a borehole of 90 cm (Fig. 1).

The demonstration of this technology, offering a radically different alternative to crystal-based gamma detection systems, may open totally new avenues for future research in large-area gamma detection, even beyond medical applications.

Fundamental idea

Sensitivity is a fundamental parameter of PET systems. It determines the amount of radioactive tracer to be administered to the patient, the observation time and the noise level in the image for a given image granularity. Any improvement in system sensitivity will allow a corresponding improvement in one of these parameters or in a combination of them.

However, a practical view should be kept in that a successful new technology should provide the expected benefits without any significant increase in cost over the presently available commercial systems. This is by far not evident with many of the currently researched approaches and some compromise may be necessary [ERI06].

Our proposal for high-sensitivity PET at reasonable cost involves the TOF-PET technique along with a dramatic extension of the FOV [BLA03, ERI08], up to whole-body size (2 m), using a low-cost per unit area particle detector, with excellent spatial resolution, uniform in the Field-of-View owing to its Depth-of-Interaction capability and time-of-flight resolution of 300 ps.

Furthermore, a very large field-of-view, taking the whole image simultaneously (single-bed), has supplementary potential advantages over narrow-FOV PET. These include the possibility of imaging simultaneously the whole body, allowing a more complete study of dynamic processes, covering the whole subject at any given instant with a better temporal segmentation. Other advantages include the possibility of achieving better quantitation through improved scatter correction, since there is no activity outside the FOV.

Innovative approach

Our approach is based on a detector technology already used in High Energy Physics Experiments for time-of-flight measurements on charged elementary particles: timing Resistive Plate Chambers (tRPCs). Such gaseous detectors have been deployed in areas over one hundred square meters at reasonable cost, while generally providing an excellent time resolution below 100 ps rms.

Several years ago our group proposed that such detectors might find useful application in TOF-PET technology, both for whole-body human scanning and small animal imaging [BLA03]. The application is based on the "converter plate" principle and takes decisive advantage of the naturally layered structure of tRPCs and of its economic construction in large areas. The expectable low efficiency for 511 keV photons is more than offset [COU07a, ERI08, CRE09] by the possibility to afford a very large field of view (FOV), on the order of 2 m.

The concept has also been independently reviewed [ERI08], although on a different set of assumptions, confirming that it may replace with advantage the present state-of-the-art crystal-based scanners for whole-body scanning.

[BLA03] Perspectives for positron emission tomography with RPCs, Blanco, A; Chepel, V; Ferreira-Marques, R; Fonte, P; Lopes, M.I; Peskov, V; Policarpo, A., Nucl. Instrum. and Meth. A 508 (2003) 88-93.

[COU07a] RPC-PET status and perspectives, M.Couceiro, A.Blanco, Nuno C.Ferreira, R.Ferreira Marques, P.Fonte, L.Lopes., Nucl. Instrum. and Meth. A 580 (2007) 915-918.

[CRE09] Whole-body single-bed time-of-flight RPC-PET: simulation of axial and planar sensitivities with NEMA and anthropomorphic phantoms, P. Crespo et al., 2009 IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium Conference Record (NSS/MIC), Jan 2010, Page(s): 3420 - 3425

[ERI06] Future instrumentation in positron emission tomography, L. Eriksson et al., 2006 IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium Conference Record, Volume 4, Oct. 29 2006-Nov. 1 2006 Page(s): 2542 - 2545.

[ERI08] Potentials for large axial field of view positron camera systems, L. Eriksson et al., 2008 IEEE MIC Conference, published in the Conference Record.

// Research Area
Física Experimental de Partículas com aceleradores
Group Leader:  
Paulo Fonte


  • Author(s):  P. Martins et al. (15 authors)
  • Submission:  2015-07-01, Acceptance:  2015-07-01, Publication:  2015-07-01
  • Reference:  2015 IEEE 4TH PORTUGUESE MEETING ON BIOENGINEERING (ENBENG) ISBN 978-1-4799-8269-1 (2015)  

  • Time-of-Flight Positron Emission Tomography with Resistive Plate Chamber Detectors: An Unlikely but Promising Approach
  • Author(s):  M. Couceiro, P. Crespo, A. Blanco, N. C. Ferreira, L. Mendes, R. Ferreira Marques, P. Fonte
  • Submission:  2015-05-15, Acceptance:  2015-05-15, Publication:  2015-05-15
  • Reference:  Acta Phys. Pol. A 127 (2015) 1453-1461  

  • Scatter Fraction, Count Rates, and Noise Equivalent Count Rate of an RPC TOF-PET System: Simulation Study Following the NEMA NU2-2001 Standards
  • Author(s):  Couceiro, M.; Crespo, P. ; Marques, R.F. ; Fonte, P.
  • Publication:  2014-05-11
  • Reference:  IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci.61 (2014) 1153-1163  

  • An all-digital coincidence-selection and coincidence-trigger generation for a small animal RPC-PET camera
  • Author(s):  F.M.C. Clemencio, C.F.M. Loureiro, P. Fonte, and J. Landeck
  • Publication:  2013-08-15
  • Reference:  IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci.60:4 (2013) 2912-2917   View publication

View all the group publications

  • ANTS
  •  Anger camera-type detector simulation and experimental data processing tools.
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