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. 128

Section Types of 2D detectors

B. B. Hea*

aBruker AXS Inc., 5465 E. Cheryl Parkway, Madison, WI 53711, USA
Correspondence e-mail: Types of 2D detectors

| top | pdf |

2D detectors can be classified into two broad categories: photon-counting detectors and integrating detectors (Lewis, 1994[link]). Photon-counting area detectors can detect a single X-ray photon entering the active area. In a photon-counting detector, each X-ray photon is absorbed and converted to an electrical pulse. The number of pulses counted per unit time is proportional to the incident X-ray flux. Photon-counting detectors typically have high counting efficiency, approaching 100% at low count rate. The most commonly used photon-counting 2D detectors include MWPCs, Si-pixel arrays and microgap detectors. Integrating area detectors, also referred to as analogue X-ray imagers, record the X-ray intensity by measuring the analogue electrical signals converted from the incoming X-ray flux. The signal size of each pixel is proportional to the fluence of incident X-rays. The most commonly used integrating 2D detectors include image plates (IPs) and charge-coupled devices (CCDs).

The selection of an appropriate 2D detector depends on the X-ray diffraction application, the sample condition and the X-ray beam intensity. In addition to geometry features, such as the active area and pixel format, the most important performance characteristics of a detector are its sensitivity, dynamic range, spatial resolution and background noise. The detector type, either photon-counting or integrating, also leads to important differences in performance. Photon-counting 2D detectors typically have high counting efficiency at low count rate, while integrating 2D detectors are not so efficient at low count rate because of the relatively high noise background. An MWPC has a high DQE of about 0.8 when exposed to incoming local fluence from single photons up to about 103 photons s−1 mm−2. The diffracted X-ray intensities from a polycrystalline or powder sample with a typical laboratory X-ray source fall into this fluence range. This is especially true with microdiffraction, where high sensitivity and low noise are crucial to reveal the weak diffraction pattern. Owing to the counting losses at a high count rate, the DQE of an MWPC decreases with increasing count rate and quickly saturates above 103 photons s−1 mm−2. Therefore, an MWPC is not suitable for collecting strong diffraction patterns or for use with high intensity sources, such as synchrotron X-ray sources. An IP can be used in a large fluence range from 10 photons s−1 mm−2 and up with a DQE of 0.2 or lower. An IP is suitable for strong diffraction from single crystals with high-intensity X-ray sources, such as a rotating-anode generator or synchrotron X-ray source. With weak diffraction signals, the image plate cannot resolve the diffraction data near the noise floor. A CCD detector can also be used over a large X-ray fluence range from 10 photons s−1 mm−2 to very high fluence with a much higher DQE of 0.7 or higher. It is suitable for collecting diffraction of medium to strong intensity from single-crystal or polycrystalline samples. Owing to the relatively high sensitivity and high local count rate, CCDs can be used in systems with either sealed-tube X-ray sources, rotating-anode generators or synchrotron X-ray sources. With a low DQE at low fluence and the presence of dark-current noise, a CCD is not a good choice for applications with weak diffraction signals. A microgap detector has the best combination of high DQE, low noise and high count rate. It has a DQE of about 0.8 at an X-ray fluence from single photons up to about 105 photons s−1 mm2. It is suitable for microdiffraction when high sensitivity and low noise are crucial to reveal weak diffraction patterns. It can also handle high X-ray fluence from strong diffraction patterns or be used with high-intensity sources, such as rotating-anode generators or synchrotron X-ray sources.


Lewis, R. (1994). Multiwire gas proportional counters: decrepit antiques or classic performers? J. Synchrotron Rad. 1, 43–53.Google Scholar

to end of page
to top of page