Thermal regulation of tightly packed solid-state photodetectors in a 1 mm3 resolution clinical PET system




Silicon photodetectors are of significant interest for use in positron emission tomography (PET) systems due to their compact size, insensitivity to magnetic fields, and high quantum efficiency. However, one of their main disadvantages is fluctuations in temperature cause strong shifts in gain of the devices. PET system designs with high photodetector density suffer both increased thermal density and constrained options for thermally regulating the devices. This paper proposes a method of thermally regulating densely packed silicon photodetectors in the context of a 1 mm3 resolution, high-sensitivity PET camera dedicated to breast imaging.


The PET camera under construction consists of 2304 units, each containing two 8 × 8 arrays of 1 mm3 LYSO crystals coupled to two position sensitive avalanche photodiodes (PSAPD). A subsection of the proposed camera with 512 PSAPDs has been constructed. The proposed thermal regulation design uses water-cooled heat sinks, thermoelectric elements, and thermistors to measure and regulate the temperature of the PSAPDs in a novel manner. Active cooling elements, placed at the edge of the detector stack due to limited access, are controlled based on collective leakage current and temperature measurements in order to keep all the PSAPDs at a consistent temperature. This thermal regulation design is characterized for the temperature profile across the camera and for the time required for cooling changes to propagate across the camera. These properties guide the implementation of a software-based, cascaded proportional-integral-derivative control loop that controls the current through the Peltier elements by monitoring thermistor temperature and leakage current. The stability of leakage current, temperature within the system using this control loop is tested over a period of 14 h. The energy resolution is then measured over a period of 8.66 h. Finally, the consistency of PSAPD gain between independent operations of the camera over 10 days is tested.


The PET camera maintains a temperature of 18.00 ± 0.05 °C over the course of 12 h while the ambient temperature varied 0.61 °C, from 22.83 to 23.44 °C. The 511 keV photopeak energy resolution over a period of 8.66 h is measured to be 11.3% FWHM with a maximum photopeak fluctuation of 4 keV. Between measurements of PSAPD gain separated by at least 2 day, the maximum photopeak shift was 6 keV.


The proposed thermal regulation scheme for tightly packed silicon photodetectors provides for stable operation of the constructed subsection of a PET camera over long durations of time. The energy resolution of the system is not degraded despite shifts in ambient temperature and photodetector heat generation. The thermal regulation scheme also provides a consistent operating environment between separate runs of the camera over different days. Inter-run consistency allows for reuse of system calibration parameters from study to study, reducing the time required to calibrate the system and hence to obtain a reconstructed image.