The fastest X-ray camera developed by polimi researchers

The DSSC detector will allow the filming of matter on a nanometric scale with ultra-short X-ray flashes


 At European XFEL in Hamburg, a research facility where extremely intense and ultra-short X-ray flashes can be generated, the characterization of the fastest low-energy X-ray camera in the world has recently been successfully completed.

The implementation of this unique X-ray image detector represents the conclusion of over a decade of international collaborative research and development. The DSSC detector, in fact, was developed by an international consortium coordinated by European XFEL and led by Matteo Porro (European XFEL), a former PhD student at Politecnico di Milano. In addition to Politecnico di Milano, the other partners of the consortium are DESY, University of Heidelberg, Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (National Institute of Nuclear Physics) and University of Bergamo. The Politecnico di Milano team, consisting of Andrea Castoldi, Carlo Fiorini and Chiara Guazzoni, coordinated the development of low-noise reading electronics and the DSSC detector calibration. 

The DSSC detector installed at the European XFEL will allow not only to "see" small objects such as biological atoms and nanostructures but also to film their evolution over time after specific inputs aimed at understanding their behaviour. Therefore, the scientific community will have an additional tool to better understand the complex structures of single proteins or viruses, with a quick impact on the understanding of diseases and the development of new drugs. It will also be possible to acquire three-dimensional images of matter on a nanometric scale or film the development of a chemical reaction of industrial interest. 

At the end of May, the first scientific experiments with the SCS measuring station were successfully carried out using the DSSC detector for the first time. During these experiments, extremely intense and ultra-short X-ray pulses hit the sample of study. X-rays are diffused from the atoms of the sample producing a characteristic image that is recorded and stored by the DSSC detector located behind the sample. 

At full capacity, the DSSC detector can capture an impressive number of images, 4.5 million images per second. With this data, the DSSC detector becomes the fastest detector in the world of low-energy X-ray images.

Professor Andrea Castoldi, from the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, is the team manager for detector calibration of the consortium:

"The challenge of creating an image detector with performance well beyond the current level was an important and stimulating experience for all of us and for the many Phd students and post-doctoral researchers who enthusiastically contributed to the development of DSSC in a context of international excellence. Demonstrating the ability to record low-energy X-ray images with single-photon resolution at this speed is a significant step that will allow the full exploitation of new investigation techniques with ultra-short pulses. The success achieved is the proof of the excellent level of research carried out at our Politecnico and of its international competitiveness".