What has the ATTRACT seed funding enabled you to do so far?
The ATTRACT seed funding has allowed us to undertake a project we had in mind since long to boost the development of the GEMPIx as a microdosimeter. The GEMPix is a novel detector developed in the past few years by our team within CERN Radiation Protection group. It couples two CERN technologies, the Gas Electron Multiplier (GEM) with the Timepix ASIC, and has already found a number of applications. Microdosimetry is the study of the energy deposition in tissue at the micrometric scale to study cell damage directly. To develop the GEMTEQ we had to adapt the design of the GEMPix for this novel application, and investigate the way to exploit its time and spatial resolution to reconstruct the 3D energy deposition along the track and use the information for microdosimetry.
What challenges have you faced so far?
We had to modify the design and the operation mode of the detector in order to flush it with Tissue Equivalent (TE) gas rather than the usual ArCO2 or ArCO2CF4 gas, use A150 plastic (a common TE material in microdosimetry) for the entrance window and adapt the data analysis scheme. We managed to perform, for the first time ever, microdosimetric measurements and compare the results to those obtained with various models of Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counters (TEPC), the “gold standard” in microdosimetry, and Monte Carlo simulations. These results are an important milestone, as they demonstrate that standard microdosimetry can be performed with the GEMTEQ.
Where does your ATTRACT journey go from here?
The next step is to improve the data analysis in order to fully exploit the tracking capability of GEMTEQ and operate it as a “track microdosimeter”. The ultimate goal is to develop a sealed version so as to make it easily portable, and fill it with TE gas to 10-1 to 10-2 of atmospheric pressure, in order to achieve sub-microdosimetry and possibly to go as far down as nanodosimetry.
Sum up in two sentences the advantages of the ATTRACT Programme over other research funding schemes.
We appreciated the lightweight process for submission of the funding request and the easy and little time-consuming quarterly reporting. We also appreciate the easy interaction with the ATTRACT Project Office and their support when needed.