Dark-field X-ray imaging

This project seeks to ensure the reliability of a clinical dark-field x-ray (DAX) radiography system, a promising innovation that could increase the uses of x-rays – in particular enabling early, cost-effective diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The challenge this project addresses is to make sure DAX can be as effective in a clinical setting as it is in the lab.


Conventional X-ray imaging still relies on the differences in attenuation of X-rays by the various body tissues that drove the seminal discoveries by W.C. Roentgen in 1895. For the first time since then, advances in microstructure gratings technology promise to add a truly new dimension to diagnostic X-ray imaging by capturing the X-ray dark field, which is sensitive to much different physical properties of body tissue.


This project involves two EIT Health Partners: KIT Karlsruhe Institut Fuer Technologie from academia and Philips Electronics Nederland B.V. from the industrial sector. These two hi-tech-focused partners are joined by MicroWorks, a specialist in x-ray technology.

The project

The DAX project paves the way to commercialise a new x-ray imaging technology and to establish this diagnostic method in clinical use. The focus of this project’s work is on diagnosing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but the technology promises broader application. Dark-field x-ray (DAX) imaging utilises a grating interferometer in the beam, making it possible to detect structural changes in the lung that occur in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The gratings represent the key component for DAX imaging. The established manufacturing process for the gratings is the so-called LIGA (lithography and galvanic) process. The performance of the gratings is well known under controlled laboratory conditions, but their implementation and performance in a clinical radiography system has not been investigated so far. This is a key aspect for ensuring image quality and diagnostic accuracy under clinical conditions.

This project will address the long-term stability of the gratings when they are exposed to heat load and radiation close to an x-ray source. Ensuring long term stability of the gratings is a prerequisite for translation of dark-field imaging from academic and pre-clinical research to a product implementation and it therefore represents an important milestone.


By facilitating early diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, this innovation provides a major tool in addressing an ailment that the WHO has identified the third leading cause of death globally, claiming over 3 million lives each year and massively impacting the quality of life of patients. Early diagnosis would enable personalised treatment to significantly improve patients’ quality of life, and to decrease morbidity and socioeconomic burden. The technology also holds promise for other health applications.

Why this is an EIT Health project

The project follows the EIT Health goal of accelerating innovation to improve healthcare by providing European doctors with new diagnostic opportunities for the benefit of Europe’s citizens. It is also in keeping with the EIT Health focus area of “Health Care Pathways”, as early diagnosis of the common problem of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can change the course of the disease and save lives.

External Partner:

  • Microworks Gmbh
Dr. Jürgen Mohr
| Head of the department micro optics | Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Sven Prevrhal
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