Tables for
Volume H
Powder diffraction
Edited by C. J. Gilmore, J. A. Kaduk and H. Schenk

International Tables for Crystallography (2018). Vol. H, ch. 2.1, pp. 47-48

Section Gas-ionization detectors

A. Kerna*

aBruker AXS, Östliche Rheinbrückenstrasse 49, Karlsruhe 76187, Germany
Correspondence e-mail: Gas-ionization detectors

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The gas-ionization detectors in current use are proportional counters and can be of the 0D, 1D or 2D detection type. Common to all proportional counters is a gas-filled chamber permeated by a non-uniform electric field between positive and negative electrodes, held at a constant potential difference relative to each other. Typically the noble gases Ar or Xe are used as gas fill, mixed with a small amount of quenching gas such as CH4 or CO2 to limit discharges. When an X-ray photon travels through the gas-filled volume, it may be absorbed by a noble-gas atom, resulting in the ejection of an electron (photoelectric and Compton recoil). This electron, accelerated by the electric field towards the anode, will cause an avalanche by subsequent ionization along its path (gas amplification), generating an electric pulse which can be registered. The height of the generated pulse is proportional to the energy of the incoming X-ray photon and permits the use of pulse-height selection to achieve moderate energy resolution. Wire-based proportional counters

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In a point proportional detector (0D detection), the pulses generated are measured at one end of a wire (or a knife edge). Position-sensitive (1D and 2D detection) proportional detectors have the added capability of detecting the location of an X-ray photon absorption event. In a 1D proportional detector, pulses are detected at both ends of the wire. Thus the time difference between the measurements of a given pulse can be used to determine the location of the discharge. 2D proportional counters consist of three arrays of wires (multiwire proportional counter, MWPC; Sauli, 1977[link]; Charpak et al., 1968[link]), where one array forming the anode plane is placed between two cathode arrays with their wires oriented parallel and orthogonal to the anode-plane wires, respectively.

Low count rates and low-to-moderate detector noise result in low-to-moderate dynamic ranges. Wire-based proportional counters are not competitive with micro-gap and semiconductor detectors, as can be seen in Table 2.1.6[link], and are therefore being driven out of the market. Micro-gap detectors

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The maximum count rates in `classical' metal-wire-based proportional counters are severely limited by the long ion-drift times in the chamber (which typically have a cathode to anode spacing of ∼10 mm). This issue has been successfully addressed by so-called micro-gap technology using parallel-plate avalanche chambers with a readout electrode separated from a resistive anode. The key feature is the resistive anode, which allows a very small amplification gap (1–2 mm cathode to anode spacing) at an increased average electric field intensity, while preventing discharges (Durst et al., 2003[link]; Khazins et al., 2004[link]). As a result, micro-gap detectors can achieve count rates several orders of magnitude higher than classical proportional counters at higher position sensitivity. Micro-gap detectors of the 1D and 2D detection type are available. Moderate count rates and very small noise levels result in very high dynamic ranges. Notably, in contrast to wire detectors, micro-gap detectors are not likely to be damaged by accidental exposure to a high-intensity direct beam, as a patterned anode plane is used rather than wires.


Charpak, G., Bouclier, R., Bressani, T., Favier, J. & Zupančič, Č. (1968). The use of multiwire proportional counters to select and localize charged particles. Nucl. Instrum. Methods, 62, 262–268.Google Scholar
Durst, R. D., Diawara, Y., Khazins, D. M., Medved, S., Becker, B. L. & Thorson, T. A. (2003). Novel, photon counting X-ray detectors. Powder Diffr. 18, 103–105.Google Scholar
Khazins, D. M., Becker, B. L., Diawara, Y., Durst, R. D., He, B. B., Medved, S. A., Sedov, V. & Thorson, T. A. (2004). A parallel-plate resistive-anode gaseous detector for X-ray imaging. IEEE Trans. Nucl. Sci. 51, 943–947.Google Scholar
Sauli, F. (1977). Principle of operation of multi-wire proportional and drift chambers. CERN 77–09, May 1977.Google Scholar

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