Spatio-energetic cross-talk in photon counting detectors: N × N binning and sub-pixel masking

Katsuyuki Taguchi, Karl Stierstorfer, Christoph Polster, Okkyun Lee, Steffen Kappler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: Smaller pixel sizes of x-ray photon counting detectors (PCDs) benefit count rate capabilities but increase cross-talk and “double-counting” between neighboring PCD pixels. When an x-ray photon produces multiple (n) counts at neighboring (sub-)pixels and they are added during post-acquisition N × N binning process, the variance of the final PCD output-pixel will be larger than its mean. In the meantime, anti-scatter grids are placed at the pixel boundaries in most of x-ray CT systems and will decrease cross-talk between sub-pixels because the grids mask sub-pixels underneath them, block the primary x-rays, and increase the separation distance between active sub-pixels. The aim of this paper was, first, to study the PCD statistics with various N × N binning schemes and three different masking methods in the presence of cross-talks, and second, to assess one of the most fundamental performances of x-ray CT: soft tissue contrast visibility. Methods: We used a PCD cross-talk model (Photon counting toolkit, PcTK) and produced cross-talk data between 3 × 3 neighboring sub-pixels and calculated the mean, variance, and covariance of output-pixels with each of N × N binning scheme [4 × 4 binning, 2 × 2 binning, and 1 × 1 binning (i.e., no binning)] and three different sub-pixel masking methods (no mask, 1-D mask, and 2-D mask). We then set up simulation to evaluate the soft tissue contrast visibility. X-rays of 120 kVp were attenuated by 10–40 cm-thick water, with the right side of PCDs having 0.5 cm thicker water than the left side. A pair of output-pixels across the left-right boundary were used to assess the sensitivity index (SI or d′), which typically ranges 0–1 and is a generalized signal-to-noise ratio and a statistics used in signal detection theory. Results: Binning a larger number of sub-pixels resulted in larger mean counts and larger variance-to-mean ratio when the lower threshold of the energy window was lower than the half of the incident energy. Mean counts are in the order of no mask (the largest), 1-D mask, and 2-D mask but the difference in variance-to-mean ratio was small. For a given sub-pixel size and masking method, binning more sub-pixels degraded the normalized SI values but the difference between 4 × 4 binning and 1 × 1 binning was typically less than 0.06. 1-D mask provided better normalized SI values than no mask and 2-D mask for side-by-side case and the improvements were larger with fewer binnings, although the difference was less than 0.10. 2-D mask was the best for embedded case. The normalized SI values of combined binning, sub-pixel size, and masking were in the order of 1 × 1 (900 μm)2 binning, 2 × 2 (450 μm)2 binning, and 4 × 4 (225 μm)2 binning for a given masking method but the difference between each of them were typically 0.02–0.05. Conclusion: We have evaluated the effect of double-counting between PCD sub-pixels with various binning and masking methods. SI values were better with fewer number of binning and larger sub-pixels. The difference among various binning and masking methods, however, was typically less than 0.06, which might result in a dose penalty of 13% if the CT system were linear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMedical Physics
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • computed tomography
  • cross-talk
  • double-counting
  • photon counting
  • spectral distortion
  • spectral response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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