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Mini Scanner Developed for Teaching CT Technology

Assembly of the DeskCAT scanner (Western University)

Assembly of the DeskCAT scanner (Western University)

Biomedical engineers at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada have developed a scaled-down computed tomography (CT) scanner to teach about the technology in the classroom. The invention of Jerry Battista, who chairs Western’s biophysics department, and Kevin Jordan of the London Health Sciences Centre is now manufactured, and distributed to other universities by Modus Medical Devices, also in London, Ontario.

Full-size CT and related computed axial tomography (CAT) scanners must be large enough to image the entire body and thus fill an entire room. The devices work by rotating a narrow fan beam of x-rays around the region of the body to be visualized. The x-rays are then detected and analyzed by a computer to create detailed images of the body part in thin slices, which can be stacked together to form a three-dimensional image.

While the concept behind the technology is simple enough, teaching about it became a challenge. “It’s hard to get access to a clinical scanner for a more practical explanation because of the heavy clinical workload,” says Battista. “So basically, we miniaturized a CT scanner to bring it into the classroom.”

The mathematical method of reconstructing the 3D picture of the specimen’s interior from the many thin image slices of the object, is identical to that used in the full-scale system. Rather than using real x-rays, however, the DeskCAT educational scanner, as the device is called, uses visible light rays to form multiple views of a transparent specimen.

In addition to its smaller size, the DeskCAT scanner avoids exposing students to a high volume of x-rays. “Another advantage is that students can ‘see the light’ passing through the specimen,” Battista adds, “whereas x-rays are invisible to the human eye. This provides unique insight.”

In the following video, Battista tells more about DeskCAt and demonstrates the device in the classroom.


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