Radiation imaging physics
Characterization of imaging performance in differential phase contrast CT compared with the conventional CT: Spectrum of noise equivalent quanta NEQ(k)
Differential phase contrast CT (DPC-CT) is emerging as a new technology to improve the contrast sensitivity of conventional attenuation-based CT. The noise equivalent quanta as a function over spatial frequency, i.e., the spectrum of noise equivalent quanta NEQ(k), is a decisive indicator of the signal and noise transfer properties of an imaging system. In this work, we derive the functional form of NEQ(k) in DPC-CT. Via system modeling, analysis, and computer simulation, we evaluate and verify the derived NEQ(k) and compare it with that of the conventional attenuation-based CT.
The DPC-CT is implemented with x-ray tube and gratings. The x-ray propagation and data acquisition are modeled and simulated through Fresnel and Fourier analysis. A monochromatic x-ray source (30 keV) is assumed to exclude any system imperfection and interference caused by scatter and beam hardening, while a 360° full scan is carried out in data acquisition to avoid any weighting scheme that may disrupt noise randomness. Adequate upsampling is implemented to simulate the x-ray beam's propagation through the gratingsG1 and G2 with periods 8 and 4 μm, respectively, while the intergrating distance is 193.6 mm (1/16 of the Talbot distance). The dimensions of the detector cell for data acquisition are 32 × 32, 64 × 64, 96 × 96, and 128 × 128 μm2, respectively, corresponding to a 40.96 × 40.96 mm2 field of view in data acquisition. An air phantom is employed to obtain the noise power spectrum NPS(k), spectrum of noise equivalent quanta NEQ(k), and detective quantum efficiency DQE(k). A cylindrical water phantom at 5.1 mm diameter and complex refraction coefficient n = 1 − δ + iβ = 1 −2.5604 × 10−7 + i1.2353 × 10−10 is placed in air to measure the edge transfer function, line spread function and then modulation transfer function MTF(k), of both DPC-CT and the conventional attenuation-based CT. The x-ray flux is set at 5 × 106 photon/cm2 per projection and observes the Poisson distribution, which is consistent with that of a micro-CT for preclinical applications. Approximately 360 regions, each at 128 × 128 matrix, are used to calculate the NPS(k) via 2D Fourier transform, in which adequate zero padding is carried out to avoid aliasing in noise.
The preliminary data show that the DPC-CT possesses a signal transfer property [MTF(k)] comparable to that of the conventional attenuation-based CT. Meanwhile, though there exists a radical difference in their noise power spectrum NPS(k) (trait 1/|k| in DPC-CT but |k| in the conventional attenuation-based CT) the NEQ(k) and DQE(k) of DPC-CT and the conventional attenuation-based CT are in principle identical.
Under the framework of ideal observer study, the joint signal and noise transfer property NEQ(k) and detective quantum efficiency DQE(k) of DPC-CT are essentially the same as those of the conventional attenuation-based CT. The findings reported in this paper may provide insightful guidelines on the research, development, and performance optimization of DPC-CT for extensive preclinical and clinical applications in the future.