Imaging breakthrough with curved organic x-ray detectors

Materials developed at Surrey University show promise for a new generation of flexible X-ray detectors with potential applications in the medical and security sectors.


X-ray detectors are made of heavy, rigid material such as silicon or germanium, but the new, flexible detectors are cheaper and can be shaped around the objects that need to be scanned. According to the University, this improves accuracy when screening patients and reduces risk when imaging tumours and administering radiotherapy. 

In a statement, Dr Prabodhi Nanayakkara, who led the research, said: “This new material is flexible, low-cost, and sensitive. But what’s exciting is that this material is tissue equivalent. This paves the way for live dosimetry, which just isn’t possible with current technology.”  

Most of the X-ray detectors on the market today are heavy, rigid, energy-consuming and expensive if a large area needs to be covered.

Organic semiconductors offer a more flexible solution, but until now did not allow as detailed an X-ray image to be produced as traditional detectors.  

To solve this, scientists at Surrey University's Advanced Technology Institute created devices based on an ink by adding low quantities of high atomic number elements to an organic semiconductor.

Building on the team’s previous research, their new detector behaves more like human tissue under X-rays, which could lead to new, safer techniques for administering radiotherapy, mammography and radiography. Their findings are published in Advanced Science

Co-author, Professor Martin Heeney, Imperial College London, said: “We have been developing heavy analogues of traditional organic semiconductors for some time, and we were intrigued when Dr Imalka Jayawardena suggested their application in X-ray detectors. These results are very exciting, especially considering this was the first material investigated, and there is plenty of scope for further improvements.”