Scintillators play a key role in the detection chain of several applications which rely on the use of ionizing radiation, and it is often mandatory to extract and detect the generated scintillation light as efficiently as possible. In positron emission tomography (PET), for example, both energy resolution and coincidence resolving time, two of the key detection parameters, depend strongly on the total amount of light which reaches the photodetector surface as well as its spatial and temporal distribution. Typical inorganic scintillators do however feature a high index of refraction, which impacts light extraction efficiency in a negative way. Furthermore, several applications such as preclinical PET rely on pixelated scintillators with small pitch. In this case, applying reflectors on the crystal pixel surface, as done conventionally, can have a dramatic impact of the packing fraction and thus the overall system sensitivity. This paper presents a study on light extraction techniques, as well as combinations thereof, for two of the most used inorganic scintillators (LYSO and BGO). Novel approaches, employing distributed Bragg reflectors (DBRs), metal coatings, and a modified Photonic Crystal (PhC) structure, are described in detail and compared with commonly used techniques. The nanostructure of the PhC is surrounded by a hybrid organic/inorganic silica sol-gel buffer layer which ensures robustness while maintaining its performance unchanged. We observed in particular a maximum light gain of about 41% on light extraction and 21% on energy resolution for BGO, a scintillator which has gained interest in the recent past due to its prompt Cherenkov component and lower cost.
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