Quantum Entanglement Tomography for enhanced medical imaging

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics


This project will enable the commercialisation of a new concept for positron imaging which utilises quantum entanglement - Quantum Entanglement Tomography (QET). The work will fund a new collaboration between the University of Edinburgh (UoE) and Kromek, one of the leading UK based manufacturers of particle detector products. The new collaboration has the potential to enable new high-quality and low-cost PET imaging detectors.

In PET imaging a patient is injected with sugar containing a radioactive atom, usually a flourine atom. When this atom decays 2 photons are emitted which come out in opposite directions back-to-back. By detecting many of these 2 photon events an image of the source can be reconstucted. PET imaging is used for many important clinical diagnoses such as identifying cancerous tissue and diagnosing Alzheimer's disease.

We (UoE) have developed and patented a new technique (QET) which will improve upon the sharpness and contrast of the PET image using quantum information. There will be significant cost benefits in adopting this approach. Better imaging will lead to more appropriate treatment, resulting in fewer futile surgical interventions and improved therapy choices for the increasingly expensive chemotherapies applied by oncologists. Apart from oncology applications, there is an increasing use of PET imaging in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. This technical developments in this project would allow smaller and weaker clinical features to be seen, permitting earlier and more reliable diagnosis of disease and disease progression.

The new quantum-information based medical imaging method will be commercialised with the CZT based detector systems developed by Kromek. These state-of-the-art photon detectors have close to ideal detection characteristics to accurately determine and exploit this quantum information.

Planned Impact

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging is currently the fastest growing modality of medical imaging in both the US and Europe, with the number of patients using PET scans increasing by 21% per year between 2005 and 2010. To meet this growing demand, worldwide sales of PET scanners are expected to increase from $781M in 2010 to $1.7B by 2018. Three of the targeted areas for improvements of PET scanners are improved image quality, reduced scanning times and reduced radiation dose to the patient. We propose a technique based on QET, utilising the quantum entanglement of the two photons. Our solution provides a novel method with increased signal:noise ratio over PET, proving a method to improve the image quality in reduced time and dose. A feasibility study by UoE has proved the concept of the technology, and led to an initial patent. The work also evaluated performance criteria which any detection system would need to meet to create a commercial system. Kromek's cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) semiconductor detectors are the current leading detector technology to achieve this and commercialise the new method. The collaboration between Kromek and UoE has the potential to create new technology and analysis methods which will lead to higher quality and lower cost PET scanners.

The improved imaging capabilities will lead to better diagnosis, including smaller cancers being detected, lower false alarms, better localisation for planning. These will lead to reduced misdiagnosis and follow-up costs, reduced treatment costs (e.g. diagnosis of breast cancer, before they present symptomatically can reduce treatment costs by 20-40%), reduced anxiety and increased health. The radiation dose required for a QET scan will be smaller than PET, giving health and environmental benefits (with lower amounts of radiotracer production required). This reduction can also lead to faster scan times, opening up new functional scanning possibilities for the technique.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/P034276/1 01/04/2017 15/07/2018 £359,925
EP/P034276/2 Transfer EP/P034276/1 16/07/2018 30/09/2019 £141,317
Description We have setup a state-of-the-art gamma detection system in York based on CZT detector technologies (in collaboration with our industrial partner (Kromek Ltd.)

We have shown that significant effects from quantum entanglement are visible in the data obtained with this system.
Exploitation Route The new method has the potential to be applied to a range of PET imaging systems.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy

Description Collaboration with Kromek Ltd 
Organisation Kromek Group plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We setup a collaboration with industrial partners based on the outcomes of this grant. This led to a successful application to InnovateUK to commercialise the outcomes of the research funded in this work.
Collaborator Contribution They provide state of the art CZT photon detection systems and staff
Impact Succesful Innovate UK grant application under the quantum technologies call. Multidisciplinary including nuclear physics, detector physics, medical physics and imaging.
Start Year 2016
Title Improvements in Image Processing for PET Scanning Data - Quantum entangled tomography 
Description Developed a new imaging method for medical positron emission tomography (PET) scans 
IP Reference WO2016092314 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2016
Licensed No
Impact Currently being developed for commercialisation with InnovateUK grant. The original IP was developed during the period of this award. Kromek agreed to fund the patent costs. We are in the process of potentially garnering additional new IP relating to the work carried out in this award.
Title Quantum entanglement in GEANT4 particle simulation package 
Description We developed in collaboration with University of Manchester the first implementation of quantum entanglement into the GEANT4 software. This is currently in use in our InnovateUK programme, but as it is developed as part of the GEANT4 package it will eventually be open source and available to all GEANT4 users. The package was improved and finalised in late 2017 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The software allows the effects and benefits of quantum entanglement to be explored in PET imaging. Th initial studies were done using an earlier STFC follow on fund award. This has now been developed to a better standard using the innovateUK support.