Idea: Muon Tomography Application to Scan Lungs of covid-19 patients

Research topic: Preliminary feasibility study of lepton tomography to assess the inflammatory status of the lungs


In collaboration between University of Tartu (UT), the National Institute for Chemical Physics and Biophysics (NICTP) in Tallinn, and the start-up company GScan, a new approach in atmospheric lepton-ray tomography (ALT) has been developed in Estonia for the detection of explosives and drugs (patent application PCT / EP2019 / 055333) in luggage-size objects. Our CMS partners from Lebanese University (LU) in Lebanon and the University of Louvain (UCLouvain) in Belgium proposed to investigate whether this method can be used to assess the lung status of coronary patients. The advantages of ALT are: it is elemental and density sensitive, there are no radiation protection limitations, long scanning times or frequent scanning schemes can be safely operated; portable systems can be designed. A specific strength of the developed ALT method is its sensitivity to low-Z materials (differently from more traditional muon tomography applications, so far mostly optimized for the identification of high-Z materials in the nuclear sector), which also makes it potentially appropriate for biological and medical applications. A prototype tomography system has already been built in Estonia, and the relevant simulation and analysis algorithms (including ML algorithms for imaging and intelligent classification) have already been developed. Therefore, a feasibility study could be quickly set up to assess applicability of ART for discerning a healthy from an unhealthy lung, in collaboration with East-Tallinn Central Hospital.

Significance and topicality

We intend to evaluate the applicability of lepton tomography for rapid and non-invasive monitoring of lung status in patients with acute pneumonia. This enhances treatment and helps to manage the flow of patients in an epidemic situation.


Statistics is, in general, a limiting factor in ALT, meaning that good resolutions generally demand long exposure times. As the exposure time must be realistically limited to O(10’), the achievable resolution cannot compete with CT scans, MRI, or ultrasounds.

Nevertheless, ALT has some advantages:

  • Cost is much inferior to CT and MRI, and in the same ballpark of ultrasounds.
  • No radiation is involved (differently from CT), hence making it appropriate for children or pregnant women and allowing several scans to be made for the same patient.
  • Differently from ultrasounds, operators would not need a high level of training before being able to interpret the outcome of the scan.

The research group

G. Anbarjafari (UT), E. Avots (UT), A. Giammanco (UCLouvain), V. Gulik (UT), A. Hektor (NICPB), M. Kiisk (UT), M. Mägi (GScan), R. Saat (East-Tallinn Central Hospital), H. Zaraket (LU).