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. 2.5, p. 127

Section Spatial resolution of area detectors

B. B. Hea*

aBruker AXS Inc., 5465 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison, WI 53711, USA
Correspondence e-mail: Spatial resolution of area detectors

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In a 2D diffraction frame, each pixel contains the X-ray intensity collected by the detector corresponding to the pixel element. The pixel size of a 2D detector can be determined by or related to the actual feature sizes of the detector structure, or artificially determined by the readout electronics or data-acquisition software. Many detector techniques allow multiple settings for variable pixel size, for instance a frame of 2048 × 2048 pixels or 512 × 512 pixels. Then the pixel size in 512 mode is 16 (4 × 4) times that of a pixel in 2048 mode. The pixel size of a 2D detector determines the space between two adjacent pixels and also the minimum angular steps in the diffraction data, therefore the pixel size is also referred to as pixel resolution.

The pixel size does not necessarily represent the true spatial resolution or the angular resolution of the detector. The resolving power of a 2D detector is also limited by its point-spread function (PSF) (Bourgeois et al., 1994[link]). The PSF is the two-dimensional response of a 2D detector to a parallel point beam smaller than one pixel. When the sharp parallel point beam strikes the detector, not only does the pixel directly hit by the beam record counts, but the surrounding pixels may also record some counts. The phenomenon is observed as if the point beam has spread over a certain region adjacent to the pixel. In other words, the PSF gives a mapping of the probability density that an X-ray photon is recorded by a pixel in the vicinity of the point where the X-ray beam hits the detector. Therefore, the PSF is also referred to as the spatial redistribution function. Fig. 2.5.12[link](a) shows the PSF produced from a parallel point beam. A plane at half the maximum intensity defines a cross-sectional region within the PSF. The FWHM can be measured at any direction crossing the centroid of the cross section. Generally, the PSF is isotropic, so the FWHMs measured in any direction should be the same.

[Figure 2.5.12]

Figure 2.5.12 | top | pdf |

(a) Point-spread function (PSF) from a parallel point beam; (b) line-spread function (LSF) from a sharp line beam.

Measuring the PSF directly by using a small parallel point beam is difficult because the small PSF spot covers a few pixels and it is hard to establish the distribution profile. Instead, the line-spread function (LSF) can be measured with a sharp line beam from a narrow slit (Ponchut, 2006[link]). Fig. 2.5.12[link](b) is the intensity profile of the image from a sharp line beam. The LSF can be obtained by integrating the image from the line beam along the direction of the line. The FWHM of the integrated profile can be used to describe the LSF. Theoretically, LSF and PSF profiles are not equivalent, but in practice they are not distinguished and may be referenced by the detector specification interchangeably. For accurate LSF measurement, the line beam is intentionally positioned with a tilt angle from the orthogonal direction of the pixel array so that the LSF can have smaller steps in the integrated profile (Fujita et al., 1992[link]).

The RMS (root-mean-square) of the distribution of counts is another parameter often used to describe the PSF. The normal distribution, also called the Gaussian distribution, is the most common shape of a PSF. The RMS of a Gaussian distribution is its standard deviation, σ. Therefore, the FWHM and RMS have the following relation, assuming that the PSF has a Gaussian distribution:[{\rm{FWHM}} = 2[- 2\ln (1/2)]^{1/2} {\rm{RMS}} = 2.3548\times {\rm{RMS}}.\eqno(2.5.21)]The values of the FWHM and RMS are significantly different, so it is important to be precise about which parameter is used when the value is given for a PSF.

For most area detectors, the pixel size is smaller than the FWHM of the PSF. The pixel size should be small enough that at least a 50% drop in counts from the centre of the PSF can be observed by the pixel adjacent to the centre pixel. In practice, an FWHM of 3 to 6 times the pixel size is a reasonable choice if use of a smaller pixel does not have other detrimental effects. A further reduction in pixel size does not necessarily improve the resolution. Some 2D detectors, such as pixel-array detectors, can achieve a single-pixel PSF. In this case, the spatial resolution is determined by the pixel size.


Bourgeois, D., Moy, J. P., Svensson, S. O. & Kvick, Å. (1994). The point-spread function of X-ray image-intensifiers/CCD-camera and imaging-plate systems in crystallography: assessment and consequences for the dynamic range. J. Appl. Cryst. 27, 868–877.Google Scholar
Fujita, H., Tsai, D.-Y., Itoh, T., Doi, K., Morishita, J., Ueda, K. & Ohtsuka, A. (1992). A simple method for determining the modulation transfer function in digital radiography. IEEE Trans. Med. Imag. 11, 34–39.Google Scholar
Ponchut, C. (2006). Characterization of X-ray area detectors for synchrotron beamlines. J. Synchrotron Rad. 13, 195–203.Google Scholar

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