A practical superconducting-microcalorimeter X-ray spectrometer for beamline and laboratory science

W. B. Doriese, P. Abbamonte, B. K. Alpert, D. A. Bennett, E. V. Denison, Y. Fang, D. A. Fischer, C. P. Fitzgerald, J. W. Fowler, J. D. Gard, J. P. Hays-Wehle, G. C. Hilton, C. Jaye, J. L. McChesney, L. Miaja-Avila, K. M. Morgan, Y. I. Joe, G. C. O'Neil, C. D. Reintsema, F. RodolakisD. R. Schmidt, H. Tatsuno, J. Uhlig, L. R. Vale, J. N. Ullom, D. S. Swetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe a series of microcalorimeter X-ray spectrometers designed for a broad suite of measurement applications. The chief advantage of this type of spectrometer is that it can be orders of magnitude more efficient at collecting X-rays than more traditional high-resolution spectrometers that rely on wavelength-dispersive techniques. This advantage is most useful in applications that are traditionally photon-starved and/or involve radiation-sensitive samples. Each energy-dispersive spectrometer is built around an array of several hundred transition-edge sensors (TESs). TESs are superconducting thin films that are biased into their superconducting-to-normal-metal transitions. The spectrometers share a common readout architecture and many design elements, such as a compact, 65 mK detector package, 8-column time-division-multiplexed superconducting quantum-interference device readout, and a liquid-cryogen-free cryogenic system that is a two-stage adiabatic-demagnetization refrigerator backed by a pulse-tube cryocooler. We have adapted this flexible architecture to mate to a variety of sample chambers and measurement systems that encompass a range of observing geometries. There are two different types of TES pixels employed. The first, designed for X-ray energies below 10 keV, has a best demonstrated energy resolution of 2.1 eV (full-width-at-half-maximum or FWHM) at 5.9 keV. The second, designed for X-ray energies below 2 keV, has a best demonstrated resolution of 1.0 eV (FWHM) at 500 eV. Our team has now deployed seven of these X-ray spectrometers to a variety of light sources, accelerator facilities, and laboratory-scale experiments; these seven spectrometers have already performed measurements related to their applications. Another five of these spectrometers will come online in the near future. We have applied our TES spectrometers to the following measurement applications: synchrotron-based absorption and emission spectroscopy and energy-resolved scattering; accelerator-based spectroscopy of hadronic atoms and particle-induced-emission spectroscopy; laboratory-based time-resolved absorption and emission spectroscopy with a tabletop, broadband source; and laboratory-based metrology of X-ray-emission lines. Here, we discuss the design, construction, and operation of our TES spectrometers and show first-light measurements from the various systems. Finally, because X-ray-TES technology continues to mature, we discuss improvements to array size, energy resolution, and counting speed that we anticipate in our next generation of TES-X-ray spectrometers and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number053108
JournalReview of Scientific Instruments
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation


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