Scientists discover a durable but sensitive material for high energy X-ray detection

Since it offers non-invasive medical imaging and material knowledge, X-ray technology is essential to both science and medicine. New developments in X-ray technology allow for more powerful and brighter beams as well as real-world imaging of increasingly complex systems, such as the internal workings of batteries.

In order to facilitate these developments, researchers are trying to create materials for X-ray detectors that are both sensitive and economical, and that can survive strong, high-energy X-rays, particularly those produced by massive X-ray synchrotrons.

A group of researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), together with associates, have showcased remarkable capabilities of a novel substance in identifying high energy X-ray scattering patterns. Due to its exceptional durability in extremely high X-ray flux and affordable price, the detector material has the potential to be widely used in synchrotron-based X-ray research.

In an X-ray scattering experiment, a sample is passed through by a stream of photons, or light particles. Photons are scattered by the sample and hit the detector material. Scientists may see into the structure and composition of the material by examining the scattering of the X-rays.

Large synchrotron facilities produce tremendous X-ray fluxes and a wide range of beam energies that are too much for many of the detector materials used today. The ones that can are frequently costly, difficult to develop, or require extremely low temperatures to be cooled," explained Antonino Miceli, a physicist at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source (APS), a user facility funded by the DOE Office of Science.

Motivated by the requirement for improved detector materials, the group examined the capabilities of perovskite crystals made of cesium bromide. Perovskites are appropriate for a variety of applications due to their highly adjustable characteristics and straightforward architectures.

Two distinct approaches were used to grow the material. One technique, used in the lab of Materials Science division scientist Duck Young Chung at Argonne, included melting and cooling the material to cause crystal formation. The alternative method involved growing the crystals at room temperature using a solution-based technique. In the laboratory of Mercouri Kanatzidis, a prominent scientist at Argonne who holds a dual position at Northwestern University, this study was carried out.

"We evaluated crystals made using these two strategies and their performance under a wide range of synchrotron fluxes at beamline 11-ID-B at the APS," stated Kanatzidis. "The outcomes were very striking."

Grown by both techniques, the material had outstanding detection performance and exhibited no problems even with fluxes up to the APS's maximum.

Miceli stated, "This detector material can reveal greater insight into real materials in real conditions by distinguishing small changes." "Its structure influences its electrical properties for better efficiency and sensitivity, and it's relatively dense compared to common detector materials like silicon."

Researchers may examine dynamic systems in real time with the use of high energy X-rays. These include chemical reactions within engines and biological activities within cells. Researchers will be able to get important insight into complex and fast activity in materials because to the new detector's capacity to identify minute changes during trials, which will enable quicker and more thorough study.

At the APS, superior detector materials are even more important because the facility is undergoing a significant renovation that will result in beamlines that are up to 500 times brighter.

"Argonne's distinct set of capabilities and expertise allowed our group to grow incredibly high-quality crystals, which really helped improve the material's performance," Chung added.

In the future, the research team wants to concentrate on improving crystal quality and increasing output. They expect other uses for the material, such as possible usage in extremely high energy gamma ray detection with DOE National Nuclear Security Administration cooperation.

The results of the experiments were reported in Advanced Materials and Advanced Optical Materials.