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Feb 12, 2022

CEO Spencer Gunn Reports Surging Demand for Photon Counting X-ray Detectors for Food Inspection

- By Jacqueline Wheeler

CEO Spencer Gunn explains why demand for photon counting X-ray detectors from the food industry is intensifying

Jacqueline Wheeler: When did Direct Conversion first identify a use for photon counting X-ray detectors for food inspection?

Spencer Gunn: Fairly early on as a business, we knew that the fast frame rate of our detectors and the ability to sum lines as we read them out meant we had a fantastic TDI (time domain integration) X-ray detector. The sensitivity and lack of lag or ghosting means that the images are sharper and less noisy per the amount of dose. Going fast is where the benefit lies; more product scanned in less time with greater accuracy is the key to meeting food industry needs. False positives are a costly problem and our higher resolution and dual energy capability mean these false detections can be minimised.

JW: What sort of inspection challenges are facing the food industry today?

SG: With social media dominating consumer interactions, companies need to prevent the potentially catastrophic damage to their brand caused by viral complaints reaching millions of customers. Any contaminants in food can lead to a massive recall and the associated cost, as well as the reputational risks. We are being challenged to detect smaller contaminants and very difficult to see contaminants, which we do using dual energy decomposition. This technique allows us to find, for example, the smallest bones in chicken or fish.

JW: What can photon counting X-ray detectors offer to food inspection that other detectors can’t?

SG: Completely registered dual energy imaging. Two images are taken in the same pixel at the same time and this makes analysis of the food easier and more accurate. We are also very efficient in stopping the X-rays, making more use of the X-rays that pass through the object. This means better signal.

JW: What kind of problems are your detectors solving?

SG: We are solving high-throughput wide-lane challenges by building detectors up to 1m long – and longer in some cases. We are also detecting smaller and harder to find contaminants like plastic in chocolate.

SG: We are a great partner to our customers. We offer expertise in X-ray imaging and image analysis as well as application specific knowledge and the willingness to work with the customer to create a new detection package. We have a flexible imaging system that can adapt to multiple needs, including speed and width. We don’t leave our customers to work alone. We help all the way to full integration and testing.

SG: In the future, we are looking at the detection of multiple materials, at the same time, using spectral imaging. This might include checking the contents, weight and composition of the products, salt content for instance, in one detection cycle, improving overall throughput, saving customers money and improving food safety.