Tables for
Volume F
Crystallography of biological macromolecules
Edited by E. Arnold, D. M. Himmel and M. G. Rossmann

International Tables for Crystallography (2012). Vol. F, ch. 7.1, p. 181   | 1 | 2 |

Section 7.1.4. Future detectors

S. M. Gruner,a* E. F. Eikenberryb and M. W. Tatea

aDepartment of Physics, 162 Clark Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853–2501, USA, and bSwiss Light Source, Paul Scherrer Institut, 5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland
Correspondence e-mail:

7.1.4. Future detectors

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Commercially available X-ray detectors have evolved from X-ray film and point diffractometry to area gas-proportional counters, to image plates, and now to CCD detectors. Two new X-ray detector technologies are on the horizon. One is based on the large-area amorphous semiconductors and thin-film transistor arrays which are being intensively developed by many large companies for medical radiography (reviewed by Moy, 1999[link]). The radiographic need is to be able to cover very large areas (e.g. 0.5 m2) with a high-spatial-resolution detector that is sensitive to hard X-rays. A number of these detectors are at the moment (1999) poised for introduction, but they are specialized for radiographic applications and are poorly suited for relatively long, low-noise integration of low-energy X-rays. It remains to be seen whether the technology will succeed and whether it can be modified for quantitative crystallographic applications.

A second technology being developed specifically for quantitative X-ray diffraction is based on solid-state pixel array detectors (PADs) (Iles et al., 1996[link]; Datte et al., 1999[link]; Barna et al., 1997[link]; Rossi et al., 1999[link]). In a PAD, X-rays are stopped directly in a semiconductor and the resulting signal is processed by electronics integrated into each pixel. Direct conversion of X-rays into electrical signals in a high-grade semiconductor has many advantages: many signal electrons are produced for each X-ray, and the conversion medium is very linear, has low noise and is well understood. Since each pixel has its own electronics, there is enormous flexibility in performing local signal processing. In principle, PADs have tremendous advantages of sensitivity, flexibility, noise and stability. The challenge will be to make PADs of a size and format useful for crystallography, while still being sufficiently affordable to be commercially viable.


Barna, S. L., Shepherd, J. A., Tate, M. W., Wixted, R. L., Eikenberry, E. F. & Gruner, S. M. (1997). Characterization of prototype pixel array detector (PAD) for use in microsecond framing time-resolved X-ray diffraction studies. IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci. 44, 950–956.
Datte, P., Beuville, E., Millaud, J. & Xuong, N.-H. (1999). A digital pixel address generator for pixel array detectors. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. A, 421, 492–501.
Iles, G., Raymond, M., Hall, G., Lovell, M., Seller, P. & Sharp, P. (1996). Hybrid pixel detector for time resolved X-ray diffraction experiments at synchrotron sources. Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. A, 381, 103–111.
Moy, J.-P. (1999). Large area X-ray detectors based on amorphous silicon detector. Thin Solid Films, 337, 213.
Rossi, G., Renzi, M., Eikenberry, E. F., Tate, M. W., Bilderback, D., Fontes, E., Wixted, R., Barna, S. & Gruner, S. M. (1999). Tests of a prototype pixel array detector for microsecond time-resolved X-ray diffraction. J. Synchrotron Rad. 6, 1096–1105.

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