27. September 2021

DECTRIS Turns 15!

A 5-minute read

15 years ago, on September 28, Dr. Christian Brönnimann, then a scientist at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), made a decision to start a new company to commercialize PILATUS, a revolutionary X-ray detector based on hybrid-pixel technology. Together with three other scientists, he founded DECTRIS. Little did he know that it would grow up to be one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of hybrid-pixel X-ray and electron detectors. How did we get here and where do we see ourselves in five years? Anniversaries are a perfect opportunity to reflect on these questions.

The first Pilatus 6M and the PSI detector team, November 2006. From l. to r. Back row: Hermann Rickert, Christian Brönnimann, Beat Henrich, Roberto DiNapoli, Eric Eikenberry, Markus Naef; Front row: Miro Kobas, Anna Bergamaschi, Philipp Kraft. Missing: Bernd Schmitt.

“If you could market it, it would be a great value for the scientific community,” they told Christian when he presented his work to his peers at conferences. The customer asked and he delivered! Together with three other scientists of the Paul Scherrer Institute, Christian founded DECTRIS, with the goal of bringing hybrid-pixel technology to synchrotrons all over the world.

It wasn’t an easy task. The founders did have to sweat whilst assembling the first detectors themselves, in parallel figuring out optimal production processes and infrastructure, building a network of suppliers, hiring new team members, and dealing with the administrative issues associated with the launch of a new business venture. The reward was the first integration of the PILATUS 6M detector to the beamline led by Clemens Schulze-Briese (today our CSO) at the PSI.

Little by little, just like new cells start to form organs, new people started to form DECTRIS and its structure. A production and operation teams were formed to assure the best possible quality of our detectors, a development team emerged making sure we continuously improve our technologies, corporate services assured smooth operations and contributed a lot to the expansion of the team, and marketing and sales took care of the customer outreach.

Fast forward 15 years

Today, we have 130 employees in three countries (Switzerland, the USA, and Japan), developing and manufacturing a vast portfolio of high-performing X-ray and electron detectors for synchrotrons and laboratories. If we look back at the past five years at DECTRIS, there are a couple of projects that make us proud:

1) We have brought you the best of the hybrid-pixel technology in a new EIGER2 for synchrotron and laboratories. Launched in 2017 at the IUCr Congress in Hyderabad, India, it is 100 times faster and features smaller pixels compared to the first generation.

That amazing feeling of removing the protection foil from your brand new EIGER2. 

2) We have developed the first hybrid-pixel electron detectors for TEM/STEM, enabling researchers to push the limits of electron microscopy. That includes Nobel Prize laureate Richard Henderson’s work on a more cost-efficient cryoEM setup, the breakthrough of microED, and outstanding results in EELS and 4D STEM.

Matthias Meffert assembling ELA, our dedicated EELS and 4D STEM detector.

3) We have delivered over 100 custom-made detectors, serving our customers with very specific requirements.

Benjamin Lüthi working on a new specific solution detector for the Diamond Light Source (DLS).

4) We have brought hybrid-pixel technology to high-energy research, launching cadmium telluride detectors. Seven of these detectors were delivered to the ESRF’s Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS) last year.

Oliver Feldt is rolling out our EIGER2 CdTe 9M.

5) We have improved our internal operations, starting from module production and characterization to open source sustainable software, from requesting a quote to commissioning and supporting workflow.

Lisa Glatt and Felix Bachmair discussing the results of the test run on our PILATUS 6M CdTe at the DECTRIS test center.

Detecting the future

For the past 15 years, it’s been our pleasure to bring you hybrid-pixel technologies and to follow your discoveries and innovative applications of our detectors. We stay committed to our mission to enable scientific discoveries and advance human health by challenging the limits of detection technology. We are constantly working on new developments and products for both X-ray and electron detection. Stay tuned! 

If you want to know more:
Transforming X-ray detection with hybrid photon-counting detectors