Using a compact synchrotron source, researchers at the Technische Universität München (TUM) have developed a technology that measures X-ray absorption, phase shifts, and radiation scattering. The technology will help doctors and scientists distinguish between healthy tissue and tumors.

Unlike classical X-ray tubes, a synchrotron generates highly focused, monochromatic X-rays. The monochromatic radiation prevents artifacts that deteriorate the image quality. The individual rays all have the same energy and wavelength.

In the past, monochromatic X-rays could only be generated in large particle accelerators, which have a circumference of at least one kilometer. The compact synchrotron, in contrast, fits into a normal laboratory.

The scientists inserted an optical grating into the focused X-ray beam, allowing the detection of even the tiniest phase shifts, absorption of X-rays, and scattering of the radiation. The greatly improved soft tissue contrast of the new X-ray technology could enable quick diagnoses and make tumors detectable earlier on.