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Better radiological images, with half the radiation

June 1, 2023

A decade ago, Northwestern chemistry professor Mercouri Kanatzidis and other scientists discovered that cesium lead bromide, a material being studied for applications in solar cells, has the ability to detect high-energy X-rays and gamma rays. The material offered promise in a number of potential applications, including biomedical imaging, such as CT and SPECT scans, and the detection of nuclear materials. After spending years developing the material, improving the purity and scaling it up in the lab, the scientists reached a turning point. 

“We thought this could be a breakthrough material in X-ray and gamma ray detection — a field that has been clamoring for a new material for 40 years — so we decided to create a startup,” Kanatzidis said. “Northwestern is very supportive in commercializing its inventions. The University licensed the technology to our company, connected us to investors and provided us with quality space and infrastructure.”

Kanatzidis and Duck Young Chung, a staff scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, founded Actinia in 2020, and the company moved into Northwestern’s Querrey InQbation Lab in November 2021. Actinia was in the cohort of first tenants in the new incubator that houses Northwestern startups at 1801 Maple Ave., in downtown Evanston, just a short walk from campus.

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