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1. WO2020198934 - SEMICONDUCTOR X-RAY DETECTOR

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Description

Title of Invention 0001   0002   0003   0004   0005   0006   0007   0008   0009   0010   0011   0012   0013   0014   0015   0016   0017   0018   0019   0020   0021   0022   0023   0024   0025   0026   0027   0028   0029   0030   0031   0032   0033   0034   0035   0036   0037   0038   0039   0040   0041   0042   0043   0044   0045   0046   0047   0048   0049   0050   0051   0052   0053   0054   0055   0056   0057   0058   0059   0060   0061   0062   0063   0064   0065   0066   0067   0068   0069   0070   0071   0072   0073   0074   0075   0076   0077   0078   0079   0080   0081   0082   0083   0084   0085   0086   0087   0088   0089   0090   0091   0092   0093   0094   0095   0096   0097   0098   0099   0100   0101   0102   0103   0104   0105   0106   0107   0108   0109  

Claims

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Drawings

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Description

Title of Invention : Semiconductor X-Ray Detector

Technical Field

[0001]
The disclosure herein relates to X-ray detectors, particularly relates to semiconductor X-ray detectors.

Background

[0002]
X-ray detectors may be devices used to measure the flux, spatial distribution, spectrum or other properties of X-rays.
[0003]
X-ray detectors may be used for many applications. One important application is imaging. X-ray imaging is a radiography technique and can be used to reveal the internal structure of a non-uniformly composed and opaque object such as the human body.
[0004]
Early X-ray detectors for imaging include photographic plates and photographic films. A photographic plate may be a glass plate with a coating of light-sensitive emulsion. Although photographic plates were replaced by photographic films, they may still be used in special situations due to the superior quality they offer and their extreme stability. A photographic film may be a plastic film (e.g., a strip or sheet) with a coating of light-sensitive emulsion.
[0005]
In the 1980s, photostimulable phosphor plates (PSP plates) became available. A PSP plate may contain a phosphor material with color centers in its lattice. When the PSP plate is exposed to X-ray, electrons excited by X-ray are trapped in the color centers until they are stimulated by a laser beam scanning over the plate surface. As the plate is scanned by laser, trapped excited electrons give off light, which is collected by a photomultiplier tube. The collected light is converted into a digital image. In contrast to photographic plates and photographic films, PSP plates can be reused.
[0006]
Another kind of X-ray detectors are X-ray image intensifiers. Components of an X-ray image intensifier are usually sealed in a vacuum. In contrast to photographic plates, photographic films, and PSP plates, X-ray image intensifiers may produce real-time images, i.e., do not require post-exposure processing to produce images. X-ray first hits an input phosphor (e.g., cesium iodide) and is converted to visible light. The visible light then hits a photocathode (e.g., a thin metal layer containing cesium and antimony compounds) and causes emission of electrons. The number of emitted electrons is proportional to the intensity of the incident X-ray. The emitted electrons are projected, through electron optics, onto an output phosphor and cause the output phosphor to produce a visible-light image.
[0007]
Scintillators operate somewhat similarly to X-ray image intensifiers in that scintillators (e.g., sodium iodide) absorb X-ray and emit visible light, which can then be detected by a suitable image sensor for visible light. In scintillators, the visible light spreads and scatters in all directions and thus reduces spatial resolution. Reducing the scintillator thickness helps to improve the spatial resolution but also reduces absorption of X-ray. A scintillator thus has to strike a compromise between absorption efficiency and resolution.
[0008]
Semiconductor X-ray detectors largely overcome this problem by direct conversion of X-ray into electric signals. A semiconductor X-ray detector may include a semiconductor layer that absorbs X-ray in wavelengths of interest. When an X-ray photon is absorbed in the semiconductor layer, multiple charge carriers (e.g., electrons and holes) are generated and swept under an electric field towards electrical contacts on the semiconductor layer. Cumbersome heat management required in currently available semiconductor X-ray detectors (e.g., Medipix) can make a detector with a large area and a large number of pixels difficult or impossible to produce.
[0009]
Summary
[0010]
Disclosed herein is an apparatus suitable for detecting x-ray, comprising: an X-ray absorption layer comprising an electrode; an electronics layer and a wall in a space among electrical connections between the X-ray absorption layer and the electronics layer. The electronics layer may comprise: a first voltage comparator configured to compare a voltage of the electrode to a first threshold; a second voltage comparator configured to compare the voltage to a second threshold; a counter configured to register a number of X-ray photons absorbed by the X-ray absorption layer; a controller; wherein the controller is configured to start a time delay from a time at which the first voltage comparator determines that an absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds an absolute value of the first threshold; wherein the controller is configured to activate the second voltage comparator during (including the beginning and the expiration) the time delay; wherein the controller is configured to cause the number registered by the counter to increase by one, if the second voltage comparator determines that an absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds an absolute value of the second threshold. The first voltage comparator and the second voltage comparator may be the same component. When a voltage comparator determines whether an absolute value of a voltage equals or exceeds an absolute value of a threshold, the voltage comparator does not necessarily compare the absolute values. Instead, when the voltage and the threshold are both negative, the voltage comparator may compare the actual values of the voltage and the threshold; when the voltage is equally or more negative than the threshold, the absolute value of voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the threshold.
[0011]
According to an embodiment, the electronics layer may further comprise an integrator electrically connected to the electrode, wherein the integrator is configured to collect charge carriers from the electrode.
[0012]
According to an embodiment, the controller is configured to activate the second voltage comparator at a beginning or expiration of the time delay. According to an embodiment, the controller is configured to deactivate the first voltage comparator at the beginning of, or during the time delay. According to an embodiment, the controller is configured to deactivate the second voltage comparator at the expiration of the time delay or at the time when the second voltage comparator determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold.
[0013]
According to an embodiment, the electronics layer may further comprise a voltmeter and the controller is configured to cause the voltmeter to measure the voltage upon expiration of the time delay.
[0014]
According to an embodiment, the controller is configured to determine an X-ray photon energy based on a value of the voltage measured upon expiration of the time delay.
[0015]
According to an embodiment, the controller is configured to connect the electrode to an electrical ground. The electrical ground may be a virtual ground. A virtual ground (also known as a “virtual earth” ) is a node of a circuit that is maintained at a steady reference potential, without being connected directly to the reference potential.
[0016]
According to an embodiment, a rate of change of the voltage is substantially zero at expiration of the time delay.
[0017]
According to an embodiment, a rate of change of the voltage is substantially non-zero at expiration of the time delay.
[0018]
According to an embodiment, the X-ray absorption layer comprises a diode.
[0019]
According to an embodiment, the X-ray absorption layer comprises silicon, germanium, GaAs, CdTe, CdZnTe, or a combination thereof.
[0020]
According to an embodiment, the apparatus does not comprise a scintillator.
[0021]
According to an embodiment, the apparatus comprises an array of pixels.
[0022]
Disclosed herein is a system comprising the apparatus described above and an X-ray source, wherein the system is configured to perform X-ray radiography on human chest or abdomen.
[0023]
According to an embodiment, the system comprises the apparatus described above and an X-ray source, wherein the system is configured to perform X-ray radiography on human mouth.
[0024]
Disclosed herein is a cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system, comprising the apparatus described above and an X-ray source, wherein the cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system is configured to form an image using backscattered X-ray.
[0025]
Disclosed herein is a cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system, comprising the apparatus described above and an X-ray source, wherein the cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system is configured to form an image using X-ray transmitted through an object inspected.
[0026]
Disclosed herein is a full-body scanner system comprising the apparatus described above and an X-ray source.
[0027]
Disclosed herein is an X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) system comprising the apparatus described above and an X-ray source.
[0028]
Disclosed herein is an electron microscope comprising the apparatus described above, an electron source and an electronic optical system.
[0029]
Disclosed herein is a system comprising the apparatus described above, wherein the system is an X-ray telescope, or an X-ray microscopy, or wherein the system is configured to perform mammography, industrial defect detection, microradiography, casting inspection, weld inspection, or digital subtraction angiography.
[0030]
Disclosed herein is a system suitable for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) , the system comprising: the apparatus described above, a second X-ray detector, a spacer, wherein the apparatus and the second X-ray detector are spaced apart by the spacer.
[0031]
According to an embodiment, the apparatus and the second X-ray detector are configured to respectively capture an image of an object simultaneously.
[0032]
According to an embodiment, the second X-ray detector is identical to the apparatus.
[0033]
Disclosed herein is a system suitable for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) , the system comprising: the apparatus described above, wherein the apparatus is configured to move to and capture images of an object exposed to incident X-ray at different distances from the object.
[0034]
According to an embodiment, the apparatus is a large area X-ray detector.
[0035]
According to an embodiment, the wall comprises solder or glue.
[0036]
According to an embodiment, the space is not completely filled.
[0037]
According to an embodiment, the wall surrounds all the electrical connections of the apparatus.
[0038]
According to an embodiment, the wall comprises portions, each of the portions surrounding a subset of the electrical connections of the apparatus.
[0039]
According to an embodiment, the wall comprises portions, each of the portions surrounding one of the electrical connections of the apparatus.
[0040]
Brief Description of Figures
[0041]
Fig. 1A schematically shows a semiconductor X-ray detector, according to an embodiment.
[0042]
Fig. 1B shows a semiconductor X-ray detector, according to an embodiment.
[0043]
Fig. 1C schematically shows an example of the arrangement of a wall in the space among the electrical connections between the X-ray absorption layer and the electronics layer of the semiconductor X-ray detector, according to an embodiment.
[0044]
Fig. 1D schematically shows a top view of the arrangement of the wall in Fig. 1C.
[0045]
Fig. 1E schematically shows a top view of another arrangement of the wall.
[0046]
Fig. 1F schematically shows a top view of another arrangement of the wall.
[0047]
Fig. 2 shows an exemplary top view of a portion of the detector in Fig. 1A, according to an embodiment.
[0048]
Fig. 3A and Fig. 3B each show a component diagram of an electronic system of the detector in Fig. 1A of Fig. 1B, according to an embodiment.
[0049]
Fig. 4 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through an electrode (upper curve) of a diode or an electrical contact of a resistor of an X-ray absorption layer exposed to X-ray, the electric current caused by charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident on the X-ray absorption layer, and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , according to an embodiment.
[0050]
Fig. 5 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by noise (e.g., dark current) , and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , in the electronic system operating in the way shown in Fig. 4, according to an embodiment.
[0051]
Fig. 6 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through an electrode (upper curve) of the X-ray absorption layer exposed to X-ray, the electric current caused by charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident on the X-ray absorption layer, and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , when the electronic system operates to detect incident X-ray photons at a higher rate, according to an embodiment.
[0052]
Fig. 7 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by noise (e.g., dark current) , and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , in the electronic system operating in the way shown in Fig. 6, according to an embodiment.
[0053]
Fig. 8 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by charge carriers generated by a series of X-ray photons incident on the X-ray absorption layer, and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode, in the electronic system operating in the way shown in Fig. 6 with RST expires before t e, according to an embodiment.
[0054]
Fig. 9A shows a flow chart for a method suitable for detecting X-ray using a system such as the electronic system operating as shown in Fig. 4, according to an embodiment.
[0055]
Fig. 9B shows a flow chart for a method suitable for detecting X-ray using a system such as the electronic system operating as shown in Fig. 6, according to an embodiment.
[0056]
Fig. 10 schematically shows a system suitable for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) , according to an embodiment.
[0057]
Fig. 11 schematically shows a system suitable for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) , according to an embodiment.
[0058]
Fig. 12 schematically shows a system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein, suitable for medical imaging such as chest X-ray radiography, abdominal X-ray radiography, etc., according to an embodiment
[0059]
Fig. 13 schematically shows a system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein suitable for dental X-ray radiography, according to an embodiment.
[0060]
Fig. 14 schematically shows a cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein, according to an embodiment.
[0061]
Fig. 15 schematically shows another cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein, according to an embodiment.
[0062]
Fig. 16 schematically shows a full-body scanner system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein, according to an embodiment.
[0063]
Fig. 17 schematically shows an X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein, according to an embodiment.
[0064]
Fig. 18 schematically shows an electron microscope comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector described herein, according to an embodiment.

Detailed Description

[0065]
Fig. 1A schematically shows a semiconductor X-ray detector 100, according to an embodiment. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 may include an X-ray absorption layer 110 and an electronics layer 120 (e.g., an ASIC) for processing or analyzing electrical signals incident X-ray generates in the X-ray absorption layer 110. In an embodiment, the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 does not comprise a scintillator. The X-ray absorption layer 110 may include a semiconductor material such as, silicon, germanium, GaAs, CdTe, CdZnTe, or a combination thereof. The semiconductor may have a high mass attenuation coefficient for the X-ray energy of interest. The X-ray absorption layer 110 may include one or more diodes (e.g., p-i-n or p-n) formed by a first doped region 111, one or more discrete regions 114 of a second doped region 113. The second doped region 113 may be separated from the first doped region 111 by an optional the intrinsic region 112. The discrete regions 114 are separated from one another by the first doped region 111 or the intrinsic region 112. The first doped region 111 and the second doped region 113 have opposite types of doping (e.g., region 111 is p-type and region 113 is n-type, or region 111 is n-type and region 113 is p-type) . In the example in Fig. 1A, each of the discrete regions 114 of the second doped region 113 forms a diode with the first doped region 111 and the optional intrinsic region 112. Namely, in the example in Fig. 1A, the X-ray absorption layer 110 has a plurality of diodes having the first doped region 111 as a shared electrode. The first doped region 111 may also have discrete portions.
[0066]
Fig. 1B shows a semiconductor X-ray detector 100, according to an embodiment. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 may include an X-ray absorption layer 110 and an electronics layer 120 (e.g., an ASIC) for processing or analyzing electrical signals incident X-ray generates in the X-ray absorption layer 110. In an embodiment, the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 does not comprise a scintillator. The X-ray absorption layer 110 may include a semiconductor material such as, silicon, germanium, GaAs, CdTe, CdZnTe, or a combination thereof. The semiconductor may have a high mass attenuation coefficient for the X-ray energy of interest. The X-ray absorption layer 110 may not include a diode but includes a resistor.
[0067]
When an X-ray photon hits the X-ray absorption layer 110 including diodes, it may be absorbed and generate one or more charge carriers by a number of mechanisms. An X-ray photon may generate 10 to 100000 charge carriers. The charge carriers may drift to the electrodes of one of the diodes under an electric field. The field may be an external electric field. The electrical contact 119B may include discrete portions each of which is in electrical contact with the discrete regions 114. In an embodiment, the charge carriers may drift in directions such that the charge carriers generated by a single X-ray photon are not substantially shared by two different discrete regions 114 ( “not substantially shared” here means less than 5%, less than 2%or less than 1%of these charge carriers flow to a different one of the discrete regions 114 than the rest of the charge carriers) . In an embodiment, the charge carriers generated by a single X-ray photon can be shared by two different discrete regions 114. Fig. 2 shows an exemplary top view of a portion of the device 100 with a 4-by-4 array of discrete regions 114. Charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident around the footprint of one of these discrete regions 114 are not substantially shared with another of these discrete regions 114. The area around a discrete region 114 in which substantially all (more than 95%, more than 98%or more than 99%of) charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident therein flow to the discrete region 114 is called a pixel associated with that discrete region 114. Namely, less than 5%, less than 2%or less than 1%of these charge carriers flow beyond the pixel. By measuring the drift current flowing into each of the discrete regions 114, or the rate of change of the voltage of each of the discrete regions 114, the number of X-ray photons absorbed (which relates to the incident X-ray intensity) and/or the energies thereof in the pixels associated with the discrete regions 114 may be determined. Thus, the spatial distribution (e.g., an image) of incident X-ray intensity may be determined by individually measuring the drift current into each one of an array of discrete regions 114 or measuring the rate of change of the voltage of each one of an array of discrete regions 114. The pixels may be organized in any suitable array, such as, a square array, a triangular array and a honeycomb array. The pixels may have any suitable shape, such as, circular, triangular, square, rectangular, and hexangular. The pixels may be individually addressable.
[0068]
When an X-ray photon hits the X-ray absorption layer 110 including a resistor but not diodes, it may be absorbed and generate one or more charge carriers by a number of mechanisms. An X-ray photon may generate 10 to 100000 charge carriers. The charge carriers may drift to the electrical contacts 119A and 119B under an electric field. The field may be an external electric field. The electrical contact 119B includes discrete portions. In an embodiment, the charge carriers may drift in directions such that the charge carriers generated by a single X-ray photon are not substantially shared by two different discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B ( “not substantially shared” here means less than 5%, less than 2%or less than 1%of these charge carriers flow to a different one of the discrete portions than the rest of the charge carriers) . In an embodiment, the charge carriers generated by a single X-ray photon can be shared by two different discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B. Charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident around the footprint of one of these discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B are not substantially shared with another of these discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B. The area around a discrete portion of the electrical contact 119B in which substantially all (more than 95%, more than 98%or more than 99%of) charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident therein flow to the discrete portion of the electrical contact 119B is called a pixel associated with the discrete portion of the electrical contact 119B. Namely, less than 5%, less than 2%or less than 1%of these charge carriers flow beyond the pixel associated with the one discrete portion of the electrical contact 119B. By measuring the drift current flowing into each of the discrete portion of the electrical contact 119B, or the rate of change of the voltage of each of the discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B, the number of X-ray photons absorbed (which relates to the incident X-ray intensity) and/or the energies thereof in the pixels associated with the discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B may be determined. Thus, the spatial distribution (e.g., an image) of incident X-ray intensity may be determined by individually measuring the drift current into each one of an array of discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B or measuring the rate of change of the voltage of each one of an array of discrete portions of the electrical contact 119B. The pixels may be organized in any suitable array, such as, a square array, a triangular array and a honeycomb array. The pixels may have any suitable shape, such as, circular, triangular, square, rectangular, and hexangular. The pixels may be individually addressable.
[0069]
The electronics layer 120 may include an electronic system 121 suitable for processing or interpreting signals generated by X-ray photons incident on the X-ray absorption layer 110. The electronic system 121 may include an analog circuitry such as a filter network, amplifiers, integrators, and comparators, or a digital circuitry such as a microprocessors, and memory. The electronic system 121 may include components shared by the pixels or components dedicated to a single pixel. For example, the electronic system 121 may include an amplifier dedicated to each pixel and a microprocessor shared among all the pixels.
[0070]
The electronic system 121 may be electrically connected to the pixels of the X-ray absorption layer 110 by electrical connections 131. The electrical connections 131 may be solder balls or any other suitable bonding mechanism. In some embodiments, space among the electrical connections 131 may be filled with filler materials. However, it may be difficult to fill space among the electrical connections 131 and non-uniform filling can cause non-uniform electric characteristic (e.g., capacitance) among the pixels, which can adversely impact the performance of the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. Therefore, in some embodiments, the space among the electrical connections 131 may be sealed with a wall 130. For example, the wall 130 may surround all the electrical connections 131 of the X-ray detector. For example, the wall 130 may include portions each of which surrounds a subset of the electrical connections 131 of the X-ray detector. For example, the wall 130 may include portions each of which surrounds one of the electrical connections 131 of the X-ray detector. The wall 130 may be made any suitable material. For example, the wall 130 may be a wall of solder in one embodiment, or a wall of glue in another embodiment. The wall 130 may prevent contaminant particles from getting into the space among the electrical connections 131, and/or reduce or eliminate the need of filling the space. In at least one embodiment, the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 with the wall 130 may be larger than 4 by 4 inches, 6 by 6 inches, or even 12 by 12 inches.
[0071]
Fig. 1C schematically shows an example of the arrangement of the wall 130, according to an embodiment. During a manufacturing process, the X-ray absorption layer 110 may be fabricated on a first semiconductor wafer 134 and the electronics layer 120 may be fabricated on a second semiconductor wafer 136. The first semiconductor wafer 134 may be bonded to the second semiconductor wafer 136 by any known or to be developed bonding technique, for example, a direct bonding or flip chip bonding. The wall 130 may be disposed into the space between the X-ray absorption layer 110 and the electronics layer 120 (e.g., the space between the first semiconductor wafer 134 and the second semiconductor wafer 136 that includes the electrical connections 131) . For example, the wall 130 may be formed on the first semiconductor wafer 134, the second semiconductor wafer 136 or both before bonding. The bonded semiconductor wafers 134 and 136 may be diced along dashed gaps 135 and cut into multiple semiconductor X-ray detectors 100. The wall 130 may include portions, each of which surrounds the electrical connections 131 in each of the multiple semiconductor X-ray detectors 100.
[0072]
Fig. 1D schematically shows a top view of the arrangement of the wall 130 in Fig. 1C. As shown, in this example, the wall 130 surrounds all the electrical connections 131 in the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. Fig. 1E schematically shows a top view of another arrangement of the wall 130. As shown, in this example, the wall 130 include portions each of which surrounds a subset of the electrical connections 131 in the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. Fig. 1F schematically shows a top view of yet another arrangement of the wall 130. As shown, in this example, the wall 130 include portions each of which surrounds one of the electrical connections 131 in the semiconductor X-ray detector 100.
[0073]
Fig. 3A and Fig. 3B each show a component diagram of the electronic system 121, according to an embodiment. The electronic system 121 may include a first voltage comparator 301, a second voltage comparator 302, a counter 320, a switch 305, a voltmeter 306 and a controller 310.
[0074]
The first voltage comparator 301 is configured to compare the voltage of an electrode of a diode 300 to a first threshold. The diode may be a diode formed by the first doped region 111, one of the discrete regions 114 of the second doped region 113, and the optional intrinsic region 112. Alternatively, the first voltage comparator 301 is configured to compare the voltage of an electrical contact (e.g., a discrete portion of electrical contact 119B) to a first threshold. The first voltage comparator 301 may be configured to monitor the voltage directly, or calculate the voltage by integrating an electric current flowing through the diode or electrical contact over a period of time. The first voltage comparator 301 may be controllably activated or deactivated by the controller 310. The first voltage comparator 301 may be a continuous comparator. Namely, the first voltage comparator 301 may be configured to be activated continuously, and monitor the voltage continuously. The first voltage comparator 301 configured as a continuous comparator reduces the chance that the system 121 misses signals generated by an incident X-ray photon. The first voltage comparator 301 configured as a continuous comparator is especially suitable when the incident X-ray intensity is relatively high. The first voltage comparator 301 may be a clocked comparator, which has the benefit of lower power consumption. The first voltage comparator 301 configured as a clocked comparator may cause the system 121 to miss signals generated by some incident X-ray photons. When the incident X-ray intensity is low, the chance of missing an incident X-ray photon is low because the time interval between two successive photons is relatively long. Therefore, the first voltage comparator 301 configured as a clocked comparator is especially suitable when the incident X-ray intensity is relatively low. The first threshold may be 5-10%, 10%-20%, 20-30%, 30-40%or 40-50%of the maximum voltage one incident X-ray photon may generate in the diode or the resistor. The maximum voltage may depend on the energy of the incident X-ray photon (i.e., the wavelength of the incident X-ray) , the material of the X-ray absorption layer 110, and other factors. For example, the first threshold may be 50 mV, 100 mV, 150 mV, or 200 mV.
[0075]
The second voltage comparator 302 is configured to compare the voltage to a second threshold. The second voltage comparator 302 may be configured to monitor the voltage directly, or calculate the voltage by integrating an electric current flowing through the diode or the electrical contact over a period of time. The second voltage comparator 302 may be a continuous comparator. The second voltage comparator 302 may be controllably activate or deactivated by the controller 310. When the second voltage comparator 302 is deactivated, the power consumption of the second voltage comparator 302 may be less than 1%, less than 5%, less than 10%or less than 20%of the power consumption when the second voltage comparator 302 is activated. The absolute value of the second threshold is greater than the absolute value of the first threshold. As used herein, the term “absolute value” or “modulus” |x| of a real number x is the non-negative value of x without regard to its sign. Namely, The second threshold may be 200%-300%of the first threshold. The second threshold may be at least 50%of the maximum voltage one incident X-ray photon may generate in the diode or resistor. For example, the second threshold may be 100 mV, 150 mV, 200 mV, 250 mV or 300 mV. The second voltage comparator 302 and the first voltage comparator 310 may be the same component. Namely, the system 121 may have one voltage comparator that can compare a voltage with two different thresholds at different times.
[0076]
The first voltage comparator 301 or the second voltage comparator 302 may include one or more op-amps or any other suitable circuitry. The first voltage comparator 301 or the second voltage comparator 302 may have a high speed to allow the system 121 to operate under a high flux of incident X-ray. However, having a high speed is often at the cost of power consumption.
[0077]
The counter 320 is configured to register a number of X-ray photons reaching the diode or resistor. The counter 320 may be a software component (e.g., a number stored in a computer memory) or a hardware component (e.g., a 4017 IC and a 7490 IC) .
[0078]
The controller 310 may be a hardware component such as a microcontroller and a microprocessor. The controller 310 is configured to start a time delay from a time at which the first voltage comparator 301 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold (e.g., the absolute value of the voltage increases from below the absolute value of the first threshold to a value equal to or above the absolute value of the first threshold) . The absolute value is used here because the voltage may be negative or positive, depending on whether the voltage of the cathode or the anode of the diode or which electrical contact is used. The controller 310 may be configured to keep deactivated the second voltage comparator 302, the counter 320 and any other circuits the operation of the first voltage comparator 301 does not require, before the time at which the first voltage comparator 301 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold. The time delay may expire before or after the voltage becomes stable, i.e., the rate of change of the voltage is substantially zero. The phase “the rate of change of the voltage is substantially zero” means that temporal change of the voltage is less than 0.1%/ns. The phase “the rate of change of the voltage is substantially non-zero” means that temporal change of the voltage is at least 0.1%/ns.
[0079]
The controller 310 may be configured to activate the second voltage comparator during (including the beginning and the expiration) the time delay. In an embodiment, the controller 310 is configured to activate the second voltage comparator at the beginning of the time delay. The term “activate” means causing the component to enter an operational state (e.g., by sending a signal such as a voltage pulse or a logic level, by providing power, etc. ) . The term “deactivate” means causing the component to enter a non-operational state (e.g., by sending a signal such as a voltage pulse or a logic level, by cut off power, etc. ) . The operational state may have higher power consumption (e.g., 10 times higher, 100 times higher, 1000 times higher) than the non-operational state. The controller 310 itself may be deactivated until the output of the first voltage comparator 301 activates the controller 310 when the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold.
[0080]
The controller 310 may be configured to cause the number registered by the counter 320 to increase by one, if, during the time delay, the second voltage comparator 302 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold.
[0081]
The controller 310 may be configured to cause the voltmeter 306 to measure the voltage upon expiration of the time delay. The controller 310 may be configured to connect the electrode to an electrical ground, so as to reset the voltage and discharge any charge carriers accumulated on the electrode. In an embodiment, the electrode is connected to an electrical ground after the expiration of the time delay. In an embodiment, the electrode is connected to an electrical ground for a finite reset time period. The controller 310 may connect the electrode to the electrical ground by controlling the switch 305. The switch may be a transistor such as a field-effect transistor (FET) .
[0082]
In an embodiment, the system 121 has no analog filter network (e.g., a RC network) . In an embodiment, the system 121 has no analog circuitry.
[0083]
The voltmeter 306 may feed the voltage it measures to the controller 310 as an analog or digital signal.
[0084]
The system 121 may include an integrator 309 electrically connected to the electrode of the diode 300 or the electrical contact, wherein the integrator is configured to collect charge carriers from the electrode. The integrator can include a capacitor in the feedback path of an amplifier. The amplifier configured as such is called a capacitive transimpedance amplifier (CTIA) . CTIA has high dynamic range by keeping the amplifier from saturating and improves the signal-to-noise ratio by limiting the bandwidth in the signal path. Charge carriers from the electrode accumulate on the capacitor over a period of time ( “integration period” ) (e.g., as shown in Fig. 4, between t 0 to t 1, or t 1-t 2) . After the integration period has expired, the capacitor voltage is sampled and then reset by a reset switch. The integrator can include a capacitor directly connected to the electrode.
[0085]
Fig. 4 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident on the diode or the resistor, and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) . The voltage may be an integral of the electric current with respect to time. At time t 0, the X-ray photon hits the diode or the resistor, charge carriers start being generated in the diode or the resistor, electric current starts to flow through the electrode of the diode or the resistor, and the absolute value of the voltage of the electrode or electrical contact starts to increase. At time t 1, the first voltage comparator 301 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold V1, and the controller 310 starts the time delay TD1 and the controller 310 may deactivate the first voltage comparator 301 at the beginning of TD1. If the controller 310 is deactivated before t 1, the controller 310 is activated at t 1. During TD1, the controller 310 activates the second voltage comparator 302. The term “during” a time delay as used here means the beginning and the expiration (i.e., the end) and any time in between. For example, the controller 310 may activate the second voltage comparator 302 at the expiration of TD1. If during TD1, the second voltage comparator 302 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold at time t 2, the controller 310 causes the number registered by the counter 320 to increase by one. At time t e, all charge carriers generated by the X-ray photon drift out of the X-ray absorption layer 110. At time t s, the time delay TD1 expires. In the example of Fig. 4, time t s is after time t e; namely TD1 expires after all charge carriers generated by the X-ray photon drift out of the X-ray absorption layer 110. The rate of change of the voltage is thus substantially zero at t s. The controller 310 may be configured to deactivate the second voltage comparator 302 at expiration of TD1 or at t 2, or any time in between.
[0086]
The controller 310 may be configured to cause the voltmeter 306 to measure the voltage upon expiration of the time delay TD1. In an embodiment, the controller 310 causes the voltmeter 306 to measure the voltage after the rate of change of the voltage becomes substantially zero after the expiration of the time delay TD1. The voltage at this moment is proportional to the amount of charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon, which relates to the energy of the X-ray photon. The controller 310 may be configured to determine the energy of the X-ray photon based on voltage the voltmeter 306 measures. One way to determine the energy is by binning the voltage. The counter 320 may have a sub-counter for each bin. When the controller 310 determines that the energy of the X-ray photon falls in a bin, the controller 310 may cause the number registered in the sub-counter for that bin to increase by one. Therefore, the system 121 may be able to detect an X-ray image and may be able to resolve X-ray photon energies of each X-ray photon.
[0087]
After TD1 expires, the controller 310 connects the electrode to an electric ground for a reset period RST to allow charge carriers accumulated on the electrode to flow to the ground and reset the voltage. After RST, the system 121 is ready to detect another incident X-ray photon. Implicitly, the rate of incident X-ray photons the system 121 can handle in the example of Fig. 4 is limited by 1/ (TD1+RST) . If the first voltage comparator 301 has been deactivated, the controller 310 can activate it at any time before RST expires. If the controller 310 has been deactivated, it may be activated before RST expires.
[0088]
Fig. 5 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by noise (e.g., dark current, background radiation, scattered X-rays, fluorescent X-rays, shared charges from adjacent pixels) , and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , in the system 121 operating in the way shown in Fig. 4. At time t 0, the noise begins. If the noise is not large enough to cause the absolute value of the voltage to exceed the absolute value of V1, the controller 310 does not activate the second voltage comparator 302. If the noise is large enough to cause the absolute value of the voltage to exceed the absolute value of V1 at time t 1 as determined by the first voltage comparator 301, the controller 310 starts the time delay TD1 and the controller 310 may deactivate the first voltage comparator 301 at the beginning of TD1. During TD1 (e.g., at expiration of TD1) , the controller 310 activates the second voltage comparator 302. The noise is very unlikely large enough to cause the absolute value of the voltage to exceed the absolute value of V2 during TD1. Therefore, the controller 310 does not cause the number registered by the counter 320 to increase. At time t e, the noise ends. At time t s, the time delay TD1 expires. The controller 310 may be configured to deactivate the second voltage comparator 302 at expiration of TD1. The controller 310 may be configured not to cause the voltmeter 306 to measure the voltage if the absolute value of the voltage does not exceed the absolute value of V2 during TD1. After TD1 expires, the controller 310 connects the electrode to an electric ground for a reset period RST to allow charge carriers accumulated on the electrode as a result of the noise to flow to the ground and reset the voltage. Therefore, the system 121 may be very effective in noise rejection.
[0089]
Fig. 6 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by charge carriers generated by an X-ray photon incident on the diode or the resistor, and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , when the system 121 operates to detect incident X-ray photons at a rate higher than 1/ (TD1+RST) . The voltage may be an integral of the electric current with respect to time. At time t 0, the X-ray photon hits the diode or the resistor, charge carriers start being generated in the diode or the resistor, electric current starts to flow through the electrode of the diode or the electrical contact of resistor, and the absolute value of the voltage of the electrode or the electrical contact starts to increase. At time t 1, the first voltage comparator 301 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold V1, and the controller 310 starts a time delay TD2 shorter than TD1, and the controller 310 may deactivate the first voltage comparator 301 at the beginning of TD2. If the controller 310 is deactivated before t 1, the controller 310 is activated at t 1. During TD2 (e.g., at expiration of TD2) , the controller 310 activates the second voltage comparator 302. If during TD2, the second voltage comparator 302 determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold at time t 2, the controller 310 causes the number registered by the counter 320 to increase by one. At time t e, all charge carriers generated by the X-ray photon drift out of the X-ray absorption layer 110. At time t h, the time delay TD2 expires. In the example of Fig. 6, time t h is before time t e; namely TD2 expires before all charge carriers generated by the X-ray photon drift out of the X-ray absorption layer 110. The rate of change of the voltage is thus substantially non-zero at t h. The controller 310 may be configured to deactivate the second voltage comparator 302 at expiration of TD2 or at t 2, or any time in between.
[0090]
The controller 310 may be configured to extrapolate the voltage at t e from the voltage as a function of time during TD2 and use the extrapolated voltage to determine the energy of the X-ray photon.
[0091]
After TD2 expires, the controller 310 connects the electrode to an electric ground for a reset period RST to allow charge carriers accumulated on the electrode to flow to the ground and reset the voltage. In an embodiment, RST expires before t e. The rate of change of the voltage after RST may be substantially non-zero because all charge carriers generated by the X-ray photon have not drifted out of the X-ray absorption layer 110 upon expiration of RST before t e. The rate of change of the voltage becomes substantially zero after t e and the voltage stabilized to a residue voltage VR after t e. In an embodiment, RST expires at or after t e, and the rate of change of the voltage after RST may be substantially zero because all charge carriers generated by the X-ray photon drift out of the X-ray absorption layer 110 at t e. After RST, the system 121 is ready to detect another incident X-ray photon. If the first voltage comparator 301 has been deactivated, the controller 310 can activate it at any time before RST expires. If the controller 310 has been deactivated, it may be activated before RST expires.
[0092]
Fig. 7 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by noise (e.g., dark current, background radiation, scattered X-rays, fluorescent X-rays, shared charges from adjacent pixels) , and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , in the system 121 operating in the way shown in Fig. 6. At time t 0, the noise begins. If the noise is not large enough to cause the absolute value of the voltage to exceed the absolute value of V1, the controller 310 does not activate the second voltage comparator 302. If the noise is large enough to cause the absolute value of the voltage to exceed the absolute value of V1 at time t 1 as determined by the first voltage comparator 301, the controller 310 starts the time delay TD2 and the controller 310 may deactivate the first voltage comparator 301 at the beginning of TD2. During TD2 (e.g., at expiration of TD2) , the controller 310 activates the second voltage comparator 302. The noise is very unlikely large enough to cause the absolute value of the voltage to exceed the absolute value of V2 during TD2. Therefore, the controller 310 does not cause the number registered by the counter 320 to increase. At time t e, the noise ends. At time t h, the time delay TD2 expires. The controller 310 may be configured to deactivate the second voltage comparator 302 at expiration of TD2. After TD2 expires, the controller 310 connects the electrode to an electric ground for a reset period RST to allow charge carriers accumulated on the electrode as a result of the noise to flow to the ground and reset the voltage. Therefore, the system 121 may be very effective in noise rejection.
[0093]
Fig. 8 schematically shows a temporal change of the electric current flowing through the electrode (upper curve) caused by charge carriers generated by a series of X-ray photons incident on the diode or the resistor, and a corresponding temporal change of the voltage of the electrode (lower curve) , in the system 121 operating in the way shown in Fig. 6 with RST expires before t e. The voltage curve caused by charge carriers generated by each incident X-ray photon is offset by the residue voltage before that photon. The absolute value of the residue voltage successively increases with each incident photon. When the absolute value of the residue voltage exceeds V1 (see the dotted rectangle in Fig. 8) , the controller starts the time delay TD2 and the controller 310 may deactivate the first voltage comparator 301 at the beginning of TD2. If no other X-ray photon incidence on the diode or the resistor during TD2, the controller connects the electrode to the electrical ground during the reset time period RST at the end of TD2, thereby resetting the residue voltage. The residue voltage thus does not cause an increase of the number registered by the counter 320.
[0094]
Fig. 9A shows a flow chart for a method suitable for detecting X-ray using a system such as the system 121 operating as shown in Fig. 4. In step 901, compare, e.g., using the first voltage comparator 301, a voltage of an electrode of a diode or an electrical contact of a resistor exposed to X-ray, to the first threshold. In step 902, determine, e.g., with the controller 310, whether the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold V1. If the absolute value of the voltage does not equal or exceed the absolute value of the first threshold, the method goes back to step 901. If the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold, continue to step 903. In step 903, start, e.g., using the controller 310, the time delay TD1. In step 904, activate, e.g., using the controller 310, a circuit (e.g., the second voltage comparator 302 or the counter 320) during the time delay TD1 (e.g., at the expiration of TD1) . In step 905, compare, e.g., using the second voltage comparator 302, the voltage to the second threshold. In step 906, determine, e.g., using the controller 310, whether the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold V2. If the absolute value of the voltage does not equal or exceed the absolute value of the second threshold, the method goes to step 910. If the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold, continue to step 907. In step 907, cause, e.g., using the controller 310, the number registered in the counter 320 to increase by one. In optional step 908, measure, e.g., using the voltmeter 306, the voltage upon expiration of the time delay TD1. In optional step 909, determine, e.g., using the controller 310, the X-ray photon energy based the voltage measured in step 908. There may be a counter for each of the energy bins. After measuring the X-ray photon energy, the counter for the bin to which the photon energy belongs can be increased by one. The method goes to step 910 after step 909. In step 910, reset the voltage to an electrical ground, e.g., by connecting the electrode of the diode or an electrical contact of a resistor to an electrical ground. Steps 908 and 909 may be omitted, for example, when neighboring pixels share a large portion (e.g., >30%) of charge carriers generated from a single photon.
[0095]
Fig. 9B shows a flow chart for a method suitable for detecting X-ray using the system such as the system 121 operating as shown in Fig. 6. In step 1001, compare, e.g., using the first voltage comparator 301, a voltage of an electrode of a diode or an electrical contact of a resistor exposed to X-ray, to the first threshold. In step 1002, determine, e.g., with the controller 310, whether the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold V1. If the absolute value of the voltage does not equal or exceed the absolute value of the first threshold, the method goes back to step 1001. If the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the first threshold, continue to step 1003. In step 1003, start, e.g., using the controller 310, the time delay TD2. In step 1004, activate, e.g., using the controller 310, a circuit (e.g., the second voltage comparator 302 or the counter 320) during the time delay TD2 (e.g., at the expiration of TD2) . In step 1005, compare, e.g., using the second voltage comparator 302, the voltage to the second threshold. In step 1006, determine, e.g., using the controller 310, whether the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold V2. If the absolute value of the voltage does not equal or exceed the absolute value of the second threshold, the method goes to step 1010. If the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold, continue to step 1007. In step 1007, cause, e.g., using the controller 310, the number registered in the counter 320 to increase by one. The method goes to step 1010 after step 1007. In step 1010, reset the voltage to an electrical ground, e.g., by connecting the electrode of the diode or an electrical contact of a resistor to an electrical ground.
[0096]
The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 may be used for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) (also known as phase-sensitive X-ray imaging) . PCI encompasses techniques that form an image of an object at least partially using the phase shift (including the spatial distribution of the phase shift) of an X-ray beam caused by that object. One way to obtain the phase shift is transforming the phase into variations in intensity.
[0097]
PCI can be combined with tomographic techniques to obtain the 3D-distribution of the real part of the refractive index of the object. PCI is more sensitive to density variations in the object than conventional intensity-based X-ray imaging (e.g., radiography) . PCI is especially useful for imaging soft tissues.
[0098]
According to an embodiment, Fig. 10 schematically shows a system 1900 suitable for PCI. The system 1900 may include at least two X-ray detectors 1910 and 1920. One or both of the two X-ray detectors 1910 is the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The X-ray detectors 1910 and 1920 may be spaced apart by a spacer 1930. The spacer 1930 may have very little absorption of the X-ray. For example, the spacer 1930 may have a very small mass attenuation coefficient (e.g., <10 cm 2g -1, <1 cm 2g -1, <0.1 cm 2g -1, or <0.01 cm 2g -1) . The mass attenuation coefficient of the spacer 1930 may be uniform (e.g., variation between every two points in the spacer 1930 less than 5%, less than 1%or less than 0.1%) . The spacer 1930 may cause the same amount of changes to the phase of X-ray passing through the spacer 1930. For example, the spacer 1930 may be a gas (e.g., air) , a vacuum chamber, may comprise aluminum, beryllium, silicon, or a combination thereof.
[0099]
The system 1900 can be used to obtain the phase shift of incident X-ray 1950 caused by an object 1960 being imaged. The X-ray detectors 1910 and 1920 can capture two images (i.e., intensity distributions) simultaneously. Because of the X-ray detectors 1910 and 1920 are separated by the spacer 1930, the two images are different distances from the object 1960. The phase may be determined from the two images, for example, using algorithms based on the linearization of the Fresnel diffraction integral.
[0100]
According to an embodiment, Fig. 11 schematically shows a system 1800 suitable for PCI. The system 1800 comprises the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 is configured to move to and capture images of an object 1860 exposed to incident X-ray 1850 at different distances from the object 1860. The images may not necessarily be captured simultaneously. The phase may be determined from the images, for example, using algorithms based on the linearization of the Fresnel diffraction integral.
[0101]
Fig. 12 schematically shows a system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The system may be used for medical imaging such as chest X-ray radiography, abdominal X-ray radiography, etc. The system comprises an X-ray source 1201. X-ray emitted from the X-ray source 1201 penetrates an object 1202 (e.g., a human body part such as chest, limb, abdomen) , is attenuated by different degrees by the internal structures of the object 1202 (e.g., bones, muscle, fat and organs, etc. ) , and is projected to the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 forms an image by detecting the intensity distribution of the X-ray.
[0102]
Fig. 13 schematically shows a system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The system may be used for medical imaging such as dental X-ray radiography. The system comprises an X-ray source 1301. X-ray emitted from the X-ray source 1301 penetrates an object 1302 that is part of a mammal (e.g., human) mouth. The object 1302 may include a maxilla bone, a palate bone, a tooth, the mandible, or the tongue. The X-ray is attenuated by different degrees by the different structures of the object 1302 and is projected to the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 forms an image by detecting the intensity distribution of the X-ray. Teeth absorb X-ray more than dental caries, infections, periodontal ligament. The dosage of X-ray radiation received by a dental patient is typically small (around 0.150 mSv for a full mouth series) .
[0103]
Fig. 14 schematically shows a cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The system may be used for inspecting and identifying goods in transportation systems such as shipping containers, vehicles, ships, luggage, etc. The system comprises an X-ray source 1401. X-ray emitted from the X-ray source 1401 may backscatter from an object 1402 (e.g., shipping containers, vehicles, ships, etc. ) and be projected to the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. Different internal structures of the object 1402 may backscatter X-ray differently. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 forms an image by detecting the intensity distribution of the backscattered X-ray and/or energies of the backscattered X-ray photons..
[0104]
Fig. 15 schematically shows another cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The system may be used for luggage screening at public transportation stations and airports. The system comprises an X-ray source 1501. X-ray emitted from the X-ray source 1501 may penetrate a piece of luggage 1502, be differently attenuated by the contents of the luggage, and projected to the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 forms an image by detecting the intensity distribution of the transmitted X-ray. The system may reveal contents of luggage and identify items forbidden on public transportation, such as firearms, narcotics, edged weapons, flammables.
[0105]
Fig. 16 schematically shows a full-body scanner system comprising the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein. The full-body scanner system may detect objects on a person’s body for security screening purposes, without physically removing clothes or making physical contact. The full-body scanner system may be able to detect non-metal objects. The full-body scanner system comprises an X-ray source 1601. X-ray emitted from the X-ray source 1601 may backscatter from a human 1602 being screened and objects thereon, and be projected to the semiconductor X-ray detector 100. The objects and the human body may backscatter X-ray differently. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 forms an image by detecting the intensity distribution of the backscattered X-ray. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 and the X-ray source 1601 may be configured to scan the human in a linear or rotational direction.
[0106]
Fig. 17 schematically shows an X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) system. The X-ray CT system uses computer-processed X-rays to produce tomographic images (virtual “slices” ) of specific areas of a scanned object. The tomographic images may be used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in various medical disciplines, or for flaw detection, failure analysis, metrology, assembly analysis and reverse engineering. The X-ray CT system comprises the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein and an X-ray source 1701. The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 and the X-ray source 1701 may be configured to rotate synchronously along one or more circular or spiral paths.
[0107]
Fig. 18 schematically shows an electron microscope. The electron microscope comprises an electron source 1801 (also called an electron gun) that is configured to emit electrons. The electron source 1801 may have various emission mechanisms such as thermionic, photocathode, cold emission, or plasmas source. The emitted electrons pass through an electronic optical system 1803, which may be configured to shape, accelerate, or focus the electrons. The electrons then reach a sample 1802 and an image detector may form an image therefrom. The electron microscope may comprise the semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described herein, for performing energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) . EDS is an analytical technique used for the elemental analysis or chemical characterization of a sample. When the electrons incident on a sample, they cause emission of characteristic X-rays from the sample. The incident electrons may excite an electron in an inner shell of an atom in the sample, ejecting it from the shell while creating an electron hole where the electron was. An electron from an outer, higher-energy shell then fills the hole, and the difference in energy between the higher-energy shell and the lower energy shell may be released in the form of an X-ray. The number and energy of the X-rays emitted from the sample can be measured by the semiconductor X-ray detector 100.
[0108]
The semiconductor X-ray detector 100 described here may have other applications such as in an X-ray telescope, X-ray mammography, industrial X-ray defect detection, X-ray microscopy or microradiography, X-ray casting inspection, X-ray non-destructive testing, X-ray weld inspection, X-ray digital subtraction angiography, etc. It may be suitable to use this semiconductor X-ray detector 100 in place of a photographic plate, a photographic film, a PSP plate, an X-ray image intensifier, a scintillator, or another semiconductor X-ray detector.
[0109]
While various aspects and embodiments have been disclosed herein, other aspects and embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art. The various aspects and embodiments disclosed herein are for purposes of illustration and are not intended to be limiting, with the true scope and spirit being indicated by the following claims.

Claims

[Claim 1]
An apparatus suitable for detecting X-ray, comprising: an X-ray absorption layer comprising an electrode; an electronics layer comprising: a first voltage comparator configured to compare a voltage of the electrode to a first threshold; a second voltage comparator configured to compare the voltage to a second threshold; a counter configured to register a number of X-ray photons absorbed by the X-ray absorption layer; a controller; wherein the controller is configured to start a time delay from a time at which the first voltage comparator determines that an absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds an absolute value of the first threshold; wherein the controller is configured to activate the second voltage comparator during the time delay; wherein the controller is configured to cause the number registered by the counter to increase by one, if the second voltage comparator determines that an absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds an absolute value of the second threshold; and a wall in a space among electrical connections between the X-ray absorption layer and the electronics layer.
[Claim 2]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the electronics layer further comprises an integrator electrically connected to the electrode, wherein the integrator is configured to collect charge carriers from the electrode.
[Claim 3]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the controller is configured to activate the second voltage comparator at a beginning or expiration of the time delay.
[Claim 4]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the electronics layer further comprises a voltmeter, wherein the controller is configured to cause the voltmeter to measure the voltage upon expiration of the time delay.
[Claim 5]
The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the controller is configured to determine an X-ray photon energy based on a value of the voltage measured upon expiration of the time delay.
[Claim 6]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the controller is configured to connect the electrode to an electrical ground.
[Claim 7]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a rate of change of the voltage is substantially zero at expiration of the time delay.
[Claim 8]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a rate of change of the voltage is substantially non-zero at expiration of the time delay.
[Claim 9]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the X-ray absorption layer comprises a diode.
[Claim 10]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the X-ray absorption layer comprises silicon, germanium, GaAs, CdTe, CdZnTe, or a combination thereof.
[Claim 11]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus does not comprise a scintillator.
[Claim 12]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus comprises an array of pixels.
[Claim 13]
A system comprising the apparatus of claim 1 and an X-ray source, wherein the system is configured to perform X-ray radiography on human chest or abdomen.
[Claim 14]
A system comprising the apparatus of claim 1 and an X-ray source, wherein the system is configured to perform X-ray radiography on human mouth.
[Claim 15]
A cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system, comprising the apparatus of claim 1 and an X-ray source, wherein the cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system is configured to form an image using backscattered X-ray.
[Claim 16]
A cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system, comprising the apparatus of claim 1 and an X-ray source, wherein the cargo scanning or non-intrusive inspection (NII) system is configured to form an image using X-ray transmitted through an object inspected.
[Claim 17]
A full-body scanner system comprising the apparatus of claim 1 and an X-ray source.
[Claim 18]
An X-ray computed tomography (X-ray CT) system comprising the apparatus of claim 1 and an X-ray source.
[Claim 19]
An electron microscope comprising the apparatus of claim 1, an electron source and an electronic optical system.
[Claim 20]
A system comprising the apparatus of claim 1, wherein the system is an X-ray telescope, or an X-ray microscopy, or wherein the system is configured to perform mammography, industrial defect detection, microradiography, casting inspection, weld inspection, or digital subtraction angiography.
[Claim 21]
A system suitable for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) , the system comprising: the apparatus of claim 1, a second X-ray detector, a spacer, wherein the apparatus and the second X-ray detector are spaced apart by the spacer.
[Claim 22]
The system of claim 21, wherein the apparatus and the second X-ray detector are configured to respectively capture an image of an object simultaneously.
[Claim 23]
The system of claim 21, wherein the second X-ray detector is identical to the apparatus.
[Claim 24]
A system suitable for phase-contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) , the system comprising: the apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is configured to move to and capture images of an object exposed to incident X-ray at different distances from the object.
[Claim 25]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the controller is configured to deactivate the first voltage comparator at a beginning of the time delay.
[Claim 26]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the controller is configured to deactivate the second voltage comparator at expiration of the time delay or at a time when the second voltage comparator determines that the absolute value of the voltage equals or exceeds the absolute value of the second threshold, or a time in between.
[Claim 27]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the wall comprises solder or glue.
[Claim 28]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the space is not completely filled.
[Claim 29]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the wall surrounds all the electrical connections of the apparatus.
[Claim 30]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the wall comprises portions, each of the portions surrounding a subset of the electrical connections of the apparatus.
[Claim 31]
The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the wall comprises portions, each of the portions surrounding one of the electrical connections of the apparatus.

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