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, p. 48

Section Semiconductor detectors

A. Kerna*

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

| top | pdf |

Semiconductor (or solid-state) detectors are solid-state ionization devices in which electron–hole pairs instead of electron–ion pairs are generated by incoming photons, and they are sensitive to the entire electromagnetic spectrum from visible light to X-rays. The energy required for production of an electron–hole pair is very low compared to the energy required for production of paired ions in a noble-gas-filled detector. As a consequence, a larger number of charge pairs with a smaller statistical variation are generated in semiconductor detectors, resulting in intrinsically higher energy-resolution capabilities. The efficiency of semiconductor detectors is very high due to the high absorption of the semiconductor materials, usually reaching 100%, but may decline at higher photon energies if the photons are not fully absorbed in the semiconductor e.g. because of insufficient thickness. The Si(Li) detector

| top | pdf |

The Si(Li) detector sensor consists of a lithium-drifted silicon crystal which must be cooled to prevent lithium diffusion and to reduce dark noise. An important advantage of this detector is its excellent energy resolution of even better than 200 eV (4%) at 8 keV (Cu radiation), allowing very effective filtering of Kβ and fluorescence radiation and thus operation without a metal filter or a diffracted-beam monochromator. As Peltier cooling is sufficient, the Si(Li) detector type has found wide interest for applications benefitting from high energy resolution, unlike energy-dispersive detectors requiring operation under cryogenic conditions [e.g. Ge(Li)]. In particular, the Si(Li) detector significantly extends the application range of today's X-ray diffractometers by allowing energy-dispersive X-ray powder diffraction (EDXRD) as well as – to some extent – XRF (see Section[link]).

An important disadvantage of Si(Li) detectors is their large dead time, which prohibits the handling of higher count rates. Moderate noise levels result in low-to-moderate dynamic ranges. An additional important disadvantage is the limitation to 0D detection. Silicon micro-strip and silicon pixel detectors

| top | pdf |

Silicon micro-strip and silicon pixel detectors employ silicon sensors, which are one- or two-dimensional arrays of p–n diodes in the form of strips or pixels, respectively, individually connected to an array of readout channels. The development of this type of detector technology has obviously been driven by the idea of massive parallelism: each strip or pixel actually represents an individual detector. Accordingly, the silicon micro-strip and silicon pixel detectors are therefore of the 1D and 2D detection type, respectively.

Count rates recorded by silicon micro-strip and silicon pixel detectors are very high with very low noise levels, resulting in very large dynamic ranges. The energy resolution of most silicon micro-strip and silicon pixel detectors is of the order of 1600 eV (20%) at 8 keV (Cu radiation). Recently, a silicon micro-strip detector with an energy resolution of better than 380 eV at 8 keV has been introduced (Wiacek et al., 2015[link]). At such high energy resolution Cu Kβ is filtered out to below the detection limit while Mn, Fe and Co fluorescence is filtered completely, allowing this detector to be operated without a metal filter or a diffracted-beam monochromator for most applications. CCD and CMOS detectors

| top | pdf |

Charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors are represented by one- or two-dimensional arrays of square or rectangular pixels consisting of metal–oxide–semiconductor (MOS) capacitors, and can detect X-ray photons directly or indirectly. The pixel size may be less than 10 µm. The majority of detectors use indirect detection, where the incoming X-ray photons are first converted to visible-light photons by a phosphor layer. CCD detectors employ the `bucket brigade' readout method, in which charge is shifted one pixel at a time by phasing the bias on the gate electrodes that overlay each pixel until it reaches the output, resulting in relatively large readout times ranging from a few tenths of a second up to several seconds per frame. Cooling (Peltier-type) is required to reduce the dark-current noise representing the dominant noise source for long exposures. In some detector designs fibre-optic demagnification is used to increase the effective active detector area, resulting in an imaging area larger than the active area of the CCD chip at the cost of detector sensitivity and spatial resolution.

CCD detectors are usually operated as integrating detectors. As such, they have no dead time and therefore provide excellent linearity over a moderate dynamic range, but cannot have energy resolution. CCD detectors are the detectors of choice for single-crystal diffraction and imaging, but are not favourable for applications with weak diffraction signals, such as powder X-ray diffraction, owing to the relatively large dark-current noise.

CCD detectors may also function as counting detectors by making the exposure time sufficiently short. In single-event mode the energy of each photon can be determined, providing an energy resolution down to about 300 eV at 8 keV (Cu radiation) and allowing a spectrum at each pixel of the CCD array to be built up by a series of consecutive measurements. Such a detector can record energy-dispersive X-ray powder diffraction (EDXRD) as well as – to some extent – XRF (see Section[link]); however, owing to the readout time, count rates are extremely low with high statistical noise.

Unlike the bucket-brigade readout of a CCD, the complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) active-pixel sensor (He et al., 2011[link]) uses a completely different architecture in which each pixel incorporates a readout preamplifier and is then read out through a bus, as in random-access memory (He et al., 2011[link]). Cooling is not required. CMOS detectors are immune to the blooming effect (in which a light source overloads the sensitivity of the sensor, causing the signal to bleed vertically into surrounding pixels forming vertical streaks). Additionally, they offer the very significant advantage of shutter-free operation, that is dead-time-free continuous scans which improve the efficiency of data collection and also improve data quality by eliminating shutter-timing jitter.

As a consequence of these characteristics, CMOS-detector active-pixel sensors are now replacing CCD chips in a number of high-end applications (e.g. professional digital photography and high-definition television), and have reached a level of performance where they are also starting to displace CCD chips in the most demanding scientific applications.


He, T., Durst, R. D., Becker, B. L., Kaercher, J. & Wachter, G. (2011). A large area X-ray imager with online linearization and noise suppression. Proc. SPIE, 8142, 81421Q.Google Scholar
Wiacek, P., Dabrowski, W., Fink, J., Fiutowski, T., Krane, H.-G., Loyer, F., Schwamberger, A., Świentek, K. & Venanzi, C. (2015). Position sensitive and energy dispersive X-ray detector based on silicon strip detector technology. J. Instrumen. 10, P04002.Google Scholar

to end of page
to top of page