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SCIENCE CHINA Information Sciences, Volume 63 , Issue 8 : 180502(2020) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11432-020-2932-8

Superconducting X-ray detectors

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  • ReceivedFeb 12, 2020
  • AcceptedMay 20, 2020
  • PublishedJul 15, 2020

Abstract

Owing to their high sensitivity and low noise, superconducting detectors are used for photon detection from microwave to high-energy particles. X-ray detection plays an important role in materials analysis, astronomy, and medical radiography, which require high efficiency as well as high energy resolution. However, traditional semiconducting detectors cannot fulfill these requirements. In this article, we review superconducting quantum detectors for X-ray detection, including transition-edge sensor (TES), superconducting tunneling junctions (STJs), kinetic inductance detectors (KIDs) and superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs), and introduce the physical structures, working mechanisms, and device behaviors of these detectors. We also review their performances regarding X-ray detection and analyze their respective characteristics. According to recent progress and the requirements of various applications, possible improvement of superconducting detectors for X-rays are discussed.


Acknowledgment

This work was supported by National Key RD Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFA0304000), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 61671438, U1631240), Shanghai Municipal Science and Technology Major Project (Grant No. 2019SHZDZX01), and Program of Shanghai Academic/Technology Research Leader (Grant No. 18XD1404600).


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  • Figure 1

    Photons with energy $hf~>~2\Delta~$ are absorbed by superconducting detectors to break Cooper pairs and create quasiparticles.

  • Figure 2

    (a) A schematic diagram of the device showing the detector layers; (b) a scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of the array; (c) read-out circuit diagram [59]@Copyright 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 3

    National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) time-division multiplexer. Each DC-biased TES detector (dark gray) is coupled to a normally closed SQUID switch (medium gray). The switches on a column are wired in a series to an array SQUID output amplifier (light gray) [69]@Copyright 2003 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 8

    Tunneling processes in a junction with both films superconducting. In both cases, the electrons flow in the same direction. This leads to the observation that X-rays absorbed in either of the films yield a signal with identical sign [93]@Copyright 1986 American Physical Society.

  • Figure 9

    Tracing from a photograph of the output pulse induced by an $\alpha~$-particle traversing junction. Dotted line represents the rms (root-mean-square) noise output from the amplifiers. Vertical scale calibrated by driving known step function currents through lumped constant small signal equivalent of the junction [90]@Copyright 1969 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 10

    Pulse height spectrum from a single aluminium STJs illuminated by the $^{55}$Mn X-ray lines complex. The inset shows a close-up view of the $K_{\alpha~1}$ and $K_{\alpha~2}$ lines from channel 1400 to 1430 of the top layer. The energy resolution for the $K_{\alpha~1}$ line was fitted with $\Delta~E~$= 12 eV (FWHM) [96]@Copyright 2001 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 11

    Equivalent circuit diagram of a KID.

  • Figure 12

    (Color online) (a) A TKID on a silicon substrate; (b) SEM of a TKID island [42]@Copyright 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 13

    (Color online) Distribution of the fitted energies of 4970 absorbed X-ray photons from a Fe$^{55}$ source, measured at 170 mK. Based on the line splitting and the average line width, we calculate an energy resolution of 75 eV at 5.9 keV [42]@Copyright 2015 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 14

    (Color online) (a) SEM images of an SNSPD hydrogen silsesquioxane mask on NbN. The nanowires are 30 nm wide, and the pitch is 100 nm (inset), covering an active area of 1.03 $\mu$m$\times~$1.14 $\mu~$m (dashed frame) [110]@Copyright 2011 American Chemical Society. (b) System detection efficiency (red circles) and the dark count rate (blue squares) as a function of the bias current [111]@Copyright 2018 AIP Publishing LLC.

  • Figure 15

    (Color online) The basic operation principle of the SNSPD. (a) A schematic illustrating the detection cycle; (b) a simple electrical equivalent circuit of a SNSPD; and (c) a simulation of the output voltage pulse of the SNSPD [114]@Copyright 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.

  • Figure 16

    (Color online) Sketches of the four main detection models. (a) The normal-core hot spot model; (b) the diffusion-based hot spot model; (c) the vortex nucleation model; and (d) the vortex crossing model [115]@Copyright 2014 American Physical Society.

  • Figure 17

    (a) SEM image of a partial 100-nm TaN SSPD. The microwires are 2.2 $\mu$m wide, and the pitch is 1.8 $\mu$m, covering an active area of 2.25 mm$\times~$2.25 mm. (b) A response pulse of this TaN SSPD for a Fe$^{55}$ X-ray source.

  • Table 1  

    Table 1A comparison of five superconducting detectors

    DetectorsEnergy resolutionCount rates (cps)Operating temperatureDecay timeDetection rangeReferences
    TES1.6 eV @ 5.9 keV$\sim~10^{2}~$$\sim~100$ mK$\sim~1$ ms$<$10 keV[32,37-39]
    STJs12 eV @ 5.9 keV10$^{3}$–10$^{4}$0.1 K–1.4 K$\sim~1~\mu~$s$<$6 keV[29,40,41]
    TKIDs75 eV @ 5.9 keV$\sim~10^{2}$$\sim~100$ mK$\sim~1$ ms$<$10 keV[42,43]
    X-SNSPD$\sim~10^{6}$$\sim~4$ K$\sim~10$ ns$<$10 keV[44,45]
    SDDs$\sim~150$ eV$\sim~10^{3}$$\sim~300$ K$\sim~5~\mu~$s$<$60 keV[6,8]

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