Electron microscopy (EM) is an important tool for high-resolution structure determination in applications ranging from condensed matter to biology. Electronic detectors are now used in most applications in EM as they offer convenience and immediate feedback that is not possible with film or image plates. The earliest forms of electronic detector used routinely in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were charge coupled devices (CCDs) and for many applications these remain perfectly adequate. There are however applications, such as the study of radiation-sensitive biological samples, where film is still used and improved detectors would be of great value. The emphasis in this review is therefore on detectors for use in such applications. Two of the most promising candidates for improved detection are: monolithic active pixel sensors (MAPS) and hybrid pixel detectors (of which Medipix2 was chosen for this study). From the studies described in this review, a back-thinned MAPS detector appears well suited to replace film in for the study of radiation-sensitive samples at 300 keV, while Medipix2 is suited to use at lower energies and especially in situations with very low count rates.
The performance of a detector depends on the energy of electrons to be recorded, which in turn is dependent on the application it is being used for; results are described for a wide range of electron energies ranging from 40 to 300 keV. The basic properties of detectors are discussed in terms of their modulation transfer function (MTF) and detective quantum efficiency (DQE) as a function of spatial frequency.
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