Time-based position estimation in monolithic scintillator detectors

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Gamma-ray detectors based on bright monolithic scintillation crystals coupled to pixelated photodetectors are currently being considered for several applications in the medical imaging field. In a typical monolithic detector, both the light intensity and the time of arrival of the earliest scintillation photons can be recorded by each of the photosensor pixels every time a gamma interaction occurs. Generally, the time stamps are used to determine the gamma interaction time while the light intensities are used to estimate the 3D position of the interaction point. In this work we show that the spatio-temporal distribution of the time stamps also carries information on the location of the gamma interaction point and thus the time stamps can be used as explanatory variables for position estimation. We present a model for the spatial resolution obtainable when the interaction position is estimated using exclusively the time stamp of the first photon detected on each of the photosensor pixels. The model is shown to be in agreement with experimental measurements on a 16 mm × 16 mm × 10 mm LSO : Ce,0.2%Ca crystal coupled to a digital photon counter (DPC) array where a spatial resolution of 3 mm (root mean squared error) is obtained. Finally we discuss the effects of the main parameters such as scintillator rise and decay time, light output and photosensor single photon time resolution and pixel size.