X-Ray detector technologies that possess improved number of readout pixels, lower power, faster readout rates, greater quantum efficiency, and enhanced energy resolution are critical to space exploration and scientific research missions. This proposal identifies a transformative new approach for X-ray detection using ion-sensitive nanomaterials. Recent work has shown that certain nanomaterials are extremely sensitive to ionized gas molecules, which enables them to detect even individual ions. These sensors can be utilized as a core element within an ionizable gas-filled volume that responds strongly to X-Rays. This project proposes to develop self-standing X-Ray detector elements with higher quantum gain with reduced power consumption compared to conventional X-Ray detectors, without sacrificing readout speed and miniaturizability. This development will be carried out by an optimization of the ion-sensing core nanomaterial, the sensing geometry, and the ionizable front-end gas volume architecture. These optimized materials and architectures will be combined with low-power fast readout electronics at the back-end to form self-standing X-Ray detector elements. This project will combine the state-of-the-art in materials science, physics, detector technology, and electrical engineering to address an issue of enormous scientific importance and technical value. The successful development of such a detector element will enable the project to move into phase II, where prototype solar X-ray detectors with small independent pixels (< 250 µm) and fast read-out (>10,000 count/s/pixel) over an energy range from < 5 keV to 300 keV will be developed. This technology will have the reach to influence a number of NASA missions beyond Solar observation, such as deep-space imaging and navigation. It will also have a huge potential for commercial applications in industrial testing and process control, medical diagnostics, and advanced scientific research in materials science and beyond.
The proposed work will eliminate high-voltage requirements and reduce power consumption, reduce payload, and enable nanometer size pixels. Combined, these advancements will enable:
Sensitive, small form-factor, low-power, and low-cost X-ray detectors have a tremendous amount of commercial applications: