An Advanced X-Ray Detector with Super Speed and Sensitivity

A full understanding of the properties of matter requires measurements of its structure at the atomic or nanoscopic level. These measurements are useful across physical and biological sciences and engineering—from understanding the structure of proteins and biomaterials; to the organization of electronic and magnetic devices; to the detailed composition of the alloys, polymers, and composites that comprise the majority of manufactured items.

X-ray diffraction, often using synchrotron radiation sources, is one of the most powerful methods used to determine the structure of matter. X-ray experiments are limited, however, by the speed, efficiency, and dynamic range of the x-ray detectors that are used to record the x-ray images resulting from diffraction experiments.

Sol M. Gruner, Physics, is developing a new type of detector, called the mixed-mode pixel array detector (MM-PAD). This detector is capable of acquiring more than a thousand images per second, where each pixel in each image records signals as small as a single x-ray or as large as tens of millions of x-rays. Its extraordinary sensitivity, dynamic range, and imaging speeds enable many x-ray science opportunities. For example, it makes a technique called x-ray ptychography practical. X-ray ptychography can be used to determine the nanoscopic structure of hierarchically organized, nonperiodic materials—such as bones, teeth, and biological organelles, as well as composites such as alloy, cements, and polymeric assemblies.

Under the Small Business in Innovation Research program, the Department of Energy has awarded Sydor Technologies, LTD (Rochester, New York) $4.35 million to commercialize the Gruner lab technology. As part of this grant, Cornell is performing a technology transfer of existing MM-PAD technology to help Sydor bring the detector to the market. Gruner’s research group is also continuing to develop a next generation MM-PAD, which can image more quickly and has an even larger dynamic range.

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$1.15 Million spanning 2 years