Applied Physics

Mokhtar Chmeissani

The focus of the applied physics research at IFAE is to develop sensor technologies with applications in medical imaging, high-energy physics and other scientific or industrial fields by exploting the valuable knowledge available at IFAE and fostering collaborations with other research centres in Catalonia like the Centro Nacional de Microelectronica (CNM), medical centers like Hospital Parc Taulí, or companies like Multiscan Technologies.


In 2020, the medical imaging/applied physics group at IFAE has active in several projects: related to Compton-PET Scanner, the 3D-Biopsy-Tomosynthesis project, The LINDA project, developing an ASIC for adaptive retinal implant, and participating in Medipix4 collaboration. These activities resulted in 2 startup companies and 1 patent granted in the EU,

3D-BONT (3D Biopsy on Tomosynthesis)

The project, funded by RIS3CAT, aims to develop a novel 3D Tomosynthesis breast biopsy system in collaboration with IFAE, Centro Nacional de Microelectronica (CNM-IMB), Hospital Parc-Tauli, IDNEO Technologies S.L., and VENTURA Medical Technologies. The project was concluded by end of 2020 in spite of the lockdown due to COVID-19. The evaluation/demonstration was carried out in IFAE leaded X-ray room. The project has been concluded successfully. Below one can see the motherboard with 4 long baby board (bb) (fig1) in a form of ladder shape (fig.2), which include cooling cold plate based on 3D metal printing device. The full camera 6 cm x 6 cm can be seen under Kapton protection cover in fig. 3. A dedicated Phantom, can be seen in fig.4, has been used to test the precision of the camera+ image reconstruction in predicting the depth of the 4 dense balls. The full Tomosynthesis biopsy machine (without the prone bed to show the details) is shown in fig. 5. Due to many limitations inherited in the guiding system of the needle, of the old biopsy machine that we have modified, we managed to locate the target position with +/- 3 mm is considered as an excellent result for research prototype as on see in fig. 6
Figure 1: Baby board with CdTe sensors
Figure 2: side view of the camera which is in a form of a ladder with 4 baby boards
Figure 3: top view of the full Camera box which include the 6 cm x 6 cm pixel CdTe sensor
Figure 1: top view of a dedicated phantom with 4 balls, each 1 mm in diameter of high density material position
Figure 2: side view of the phantom show 4 pillars with different heights (10 mm, 20 mm, 30 mm, and 40 mm)
Figure 1: full Tomosynthesis biopsy machine
Figure 2: Biopsy needle touching the sphrical target embedded in a phnatom that has the same texture of a breast when it comes to the density and the elasticity of the tissue

LINDA (X-ray LINe Detector with novel photon counting ASIC)

LINDA project is funded by ACCIO and expected to finish in June 2021. The LINDA project will deliver a 20 cm long Spectral X-ray Line Camera to be mounted, and later tested, in dedicated commercial X-ray scanner machine for food quality control. The camera construction is in progress. The mechanics (fig 7), hardware, firmware, and the CdTe pixel sensors (fig.8) are ready. Currently the DAQ and the Graphic Unser Interface (GUI) is under development. The camera will use the ERICA ASIC which includes a charge summation algorithm (patent granted in China, the EU, Japan, and the USA), which is fundamental technique, to achieve a spectral X-ray response in a photon counting pixel detector. The LINDA project has won the Word Mobile Capital´s support, financially and developing the business plan, to industrialize it via a startup company, Deep Detection S.L., which has been created officially in July 2020.
Figure 1: enclosure box of the LINDA camera and inside one can see the camera PCB on which the 30 ERICA sensors get mounted on it.
Figure 2: 31 ERICA sensors that are ready for mounting. The sensor have been produced in IFAE clean room

ASIC for Epi-retinal Implant for Vision Restoration

Institut de Física d’Altes Energies (IFAE) and in collaboration with Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), Barraquer Foundation (BF) are developing the technology and the know-how for epi-retinal implant for vision restoration, figure 9. The prosthesis technology is capable of providing high-acuity artificial vision to individuals blinded by eye retinitis disease. In such eye disease, neurons responsible for conveying information to the brain remain alive. A retinal prosthesis electrically stimulates these neurons in precise pattern to re-create vision sensation. IFAE is leading the development of a wireless (power and data) retinal prosthesis, patent protected

In 2020 IFAE has succeeded in the production of the first prototype of epi-retinal implant ASIC with 1260 electrodes, shown in fig. 10. The extensive tests have shown that it is operational at the 90% level and this will allow us to develop an encapsulation to make it possible to use it in vitro and possibly in vivo with pigs.

Figure 1: shows schematically an array of electrodes (red color) made of graphene and are sandwiched between an ASIC (blue color) and the top layer of the retina and close to Ganglion cells. An external camera (mounted on a dedicated eyeglasses) captures an image frame and it gets sent to the ASIC wirelessly , via modulated light at high frequency that follow the pattern of data string (…00110001111….) to program each pixel/electrode on the ASIC. The same light is used as well to power the ASIC itself using Photo-Voltaic cell
Figure 2: prototype ASIC epi-retinal prosthesis of 4 mm x 3 mm in size, wire bonded to a test PCB for evaluation and characterization. The ASIC has 1260 electrodes with pitch of 70um. The ASIC is based on 65 nm Technology

Start-up Companies

  • Deep Detection SL was founded in July 2020 and its main domain of activities is X-ray detectors for industrial quality control and security. It will exploit the LINDA camera.

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  • Barcelona Detector Technologies SL (Baretek) was founded by members of IFAE in October 2020. It is main domain of activities is in micro-electronics and sensor packaging.

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Patent Application/Granted in 2020

  • Title : Artificial vision system. 2020-05-07 Application, Publication of WO2020089222A1

  • Title : Detector for Compton imaging 2020-04-29 Application granted in EU, Publication of EP3490456B1