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Hydrogels for three-dimensional ionizing-radiation dosimetry


Radiation-sensitive gels are among the most recent and promising developments for radiation therapy (RT) dosimetry. RT dosimetry has the twofold goal of ensuring the quality of the treatment and the radiation protection of the patient. Benchmark dosimetry for acceptance testing and commissioning of RT systems is still based on ionization chambers. However, even the smallest chambers cannot resolve the steep dose gradients of up to 30–50% per mm generated with the most advanced techniques. While a multitude of systems based, e.g., on luminescence, silicon diodes and radiochromic materials have been developed, they do not allow the truly continuous 3D dose measurements offered by radiation-sensitive gels. The gels are tissue equivalent, so they also serve as phantoms, and their response is largely independent of radiation quality and dose rate. Some of them are infused with ferrous sulfate and rely on the radiation-induced oxidation of ferrous ions to ferric ions (Fricke-gels). Other formulations consist of monomers dispersed in a gelatinous medium (Polyacrylamide gels) and rely on radiation-induced polymerization, which creates a stable polymer structure. In both gel types, irradiation causes changes in proton relaxation rates that are proportional to locally absorbed dose and can be imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Changes in color and/or opacification of the gels also occur upon irradiation, allowing the use of optical tomography techniques. In this work, we review both Fricke and polyacrylamide gels with emphasis on their chemical and physical properties and on their applications for radiation dosimetry.