Featured beamlines // 25.10.2021 // DECTRIS

Welcoming a MYTHEN2 Detector to the ALBA Synchrotron

A 10-minute read

Going to the ALBA Synchrotron Light Source is always great, but if the trip is coupled with the installation of a new X-ray detector, the excitement is even greater! 

This summer, our Support team visited the Materials Science and Powder Diffraction (MSPD) beamline for the acceptance test of its new MYTHEN2 X 8K detector. With this, the beamline’s old MYTHEN detector can officially be retired and give way to new adventures. The MYTHEN2 X 8K covers an angular range of 60° in 2θ, offers speeds up to 1,000 Hz, and keeps its dynamic range at 24 bits.

We sat down with Dr. Francois Fauth, the MSPD beamline’s responsible scientist, to see how the new detector will be used for Powder X-ray Diffraction (PXRD) and Pair Distribution Function (PDF) measurements. 

DECTRIS: Was it difficult to say goodbye to the old MYTHEN detector? 

Dr. Francois Fauth, responsible scientist at the MSPD beamline: There are many ways to evaluate the success of a beamline: it may be a number of papers, but also the number of users who are coming back to perform measurements here. We feel happy and proud that we succeeded in both. 

Our old MYTHEN is a part of this: it was with us for almost a decade, and it was used for 85% of the standard Powder Diffraction experiments at the beamline. With this machine, we could perform in situ, operando, and standard PXRD measurements, as well as PDF studies, but it was necessary to change the system. However, the old system is already installed on a new beamline and will be used to complement its X-ray Absorption data collection. 

DECTRIS: The old MYTHEN detector is still operational. What was the main trigger for the change? 

Francois: There were two reasons. The practical reason was that the old MYTHEN relied on a Detector Control System (DCS) that was obtained by the Paul Scherrer Institute, and this DCS is no longer supported. The other reason was scientific: our beamline operates in the range of 5-40 keV, and we wanted a new detector to give us a push toward experiments at higher X-ray energies. Of course, for PDF, we do not compete in acquisition speed with high-energy beamlines that use 2D detectors, like the ID22 at the ESRF. 

Compared to the old MYTHEN, the new one has more modules and a sensor thickness of 1 mm, which translates to higher angular coverage and higher quantum efficiency. For PDF, the old setup typically required four acquisitions of 45 minutes. The new system is larger and has a higher efficiency, so it will also be possible to explore some in situ PDF measurements. 

DECTRIS: How will the change to a new detector affect users on the operative level?   

Francois: Most of our users come from academia, and they usually do not require the very fast time-resolution capability offered by DECTRIS detector systems. Most of them are interested in batteries and energy-related materials, and they are often looking into operando studies, or into temperature-dependent changes of crystal structures. 

For the advanced users, the change of detector should not be problematic, as many procedures will stay the same. In fact, we have already started collecting PXRD and PDF data with our users! We also have industry users, and beamline scientists usually perform measurements for them. 

DECTRIS: With the MYTHEN2, you were able to design your multi-modular system according to your needs. How did this work? 

Francois: Yes—using the individual modules, we could freely choose the radius of the curvature and the arrangement of modules on the holder. But, there is another point of flexibility. Usually, when you purchase a detector, there is no possibility of changing or upgrading, but with the MYTHEN2, there is a possibility of adding or rearranging the modules at almost any point.  

With this, we wish Francois and his team all the best—and many happy users!

The DECTRIS team meets ALBA scientists at the MSPD beamline. Congratulations on the new X-ray detector! Picture courtesy of the ALBA synchrotron source.


The MYTHEN2 X 8K setup at the MSPD beamline: eight modules and two DCS4s for high angular coverage and speed. Picture courtesy of the ALBA synchrotron source.

About Francois Fauth 

Francois Fauth is a Swiss native and studied Physics at ETH Zürich, then completed a PhD at the Paul Scherrer Institute using neutron scattering techniques. His scientific career has been spent exclusively at large-scale facilities: specifically ILL, PSI, ESRF, and ALBA, where he assumed beamline-scientist duties on diffraction or scattering instruments. 

His first steps into synchrotrons were made in 1999 at the Swiss Light Source, where he participated in the design of the MS Powder Diffraction Station, which integrated the first MYTHEN detector. Since 2011, Francois Fauth has been responsible for the MSPD beamline; he also heads the Chemistry and Materials Science section at ALBA, which encompasses diffraction, scattering, and hard X-ray absorption beamlines and techniques.

About ALBA 
ALBA is a third generation synchrotron source, located in Spain. It is managed by the Consortium for the Construction, Equipping, and Exploitation of the Synchrotron Light Source (CELLS), and it is funded in equal parts by the Spanish Government and the Catalonian Administration. 

ALBA currently has tenoperational, state-of-the-art beamlines comprising soft and hard X-rays, which are devoted mainly to biosciences, condensed matter (magnetic and electronic properties, nanoscience), and materials science. Additionally, three more beamlines are under construction (microfocus for macromolecular crystallography, fast X-ray tomography & radioscopy and optics characterisation). ALBA is now starting its upgrade, ALBA II, for being transformed into a 4th generation facility.

Further reading: 

- PDF studies 

- PXRD with 2D detectors

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