Detector Damage at X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Sources

G. Blaj, G. Carini, S. Carron, G. Haller, P. Hart, J. Hasi, S. Herrmann, C. Kenney, J. Segal, C. A. Stan, A. Tomada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Free-electron lasers (FELs) opened a new window on imaging the motion of atoms and molecules. At SLAC, FEL experiments are performed at LCLS using 120 Hz pulses with 1012 to 1013 photons in 10 fs (billions of times brighter than at the most powerful synchrotrons). Concurrently, users and staff operate under high pressure due to flexible and often rapidly changing setups and low tolerance for system malfunction. This extreme detection environment raises unique challenges, from obvious to surprising, and leads to treating detectors as consumables. We discuss in detail the detector damage mechanisms observed in 7 years of operation at LCLS, together with the corresponding damage mitigation strategies and their effectiveness. Main types of damage mechanisms already identified include: (1) X-ray radiation damage (from 'catastrophic' to 'classical'), (2) direct and indirect damage caused by optical lasers, (3) sample induced damage, (4) vacuum related damage, (5) high-pressure environment. In total, 19 damage mechanisms have been identified. We also present general strategies for reducing damage risk or minimizing the impact of detector damage on the science program. These include availability of replacement parts and skilled operators and also careful planning, incident investigation resulting in updated designs, procedures and operator training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7469372
Pages (from-to)1818-1826
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • EMP
  • ESD
  • LCLS
  • X-ray detectors
  • damage
  • free-electron lasers
  • pnCCD
  • radiation damage
  • risk reduction


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