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X-ray Crystallography
Corporate news // 19.06.2024

Tackling the Challenges Posed by Experimental Synchrotron Data with DECTRIS CLOUD

Success Stories // 06.05.2024

Baden, May 6, 2024 – Researchers at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) of the U.S. Department of Energy have set a new fusion record using PILATUS3 detectors provided by DECTRIS. The record was set at WEST, the Tungsten (W) Environment in Steady-state Tokamak; the fusion device sustained a hot plasma at about 50 million degrees Celsius for six minutes. 

DECTRIS is proud to be part of this success, which highlights the key role of public-private partnerships, as well as that of Swiss technology based on Hybrid Photon Counting, in advancing energy research. Finally, the record was made possible thanks to an X-ray detector called “PILATUS3”, which was specifically modified and improved for monitoring super-hot plasma in harsh and challenging conditions.

  • A record measurement of long-lasting, super-hot, 50-million-degree plasma was achieved at WEST Tokamak, France by PPPL researchers with PILATUS3 detectors that were specifically designed for the application.

  • More than 15 years of public-private partnership between DECTRIS and the PPPL enabled development of the best-adapted X-ray detector for the challenging environment of tokamaks. 

  • Specific Solutions, such as the PILATUS3 used at WEST, are customized X-ray detectors with specific geometries and physical properties such as magnetic-field tolerance and vacuum compatibility.

  • The “thermometer” that was used to measure this record is an X-ray diagnostic tool, developed by the PPPL and enabled by DECTRIS technology.


X-ray detectors play a critical role in nuclear fusion, a process that recreates conditions close to those on the Sun and could satisfy the never-ending need for energy on Earth. To that end, plasma must be contained and kept in a steady state for as long as possible in fusion devices such as tokamaks, machines that confine plasma — the fourth state of matter — in a donut-shaped vessel using magnetic fields. To achieve this, researchers study plasma, control it, and analyze its dynamics to ensure it is stable. As most of the power from a plasma fusion setup is radiated in the form of X-rays, reliable X-ray detectors are needed to monitor the plasma and its processes within the container. Therefore, close collaboration among researchers, fusion facilities, and X-ray detector manufacturers such as DECTRIS is essential to develop the best-adapted tools for this endeavor.

The fusion record set by researchers from the PPPL was achieved because three critical components that are needed to produce energy were brought together. On top of the super-hot temperature of the plasma and the six-minute duration of the experiment, the measurement was made in a tokamak internally clad in tungsten, the element that could be the best fit for the commercial-scale machines that are required to make fusion reactors and produce energy. A previous version of the device — Tore Supra — achieved a slightly longer reaction, but back then, the machine’s interior was made of carbon. While carbon makes the environment easier for long reactions, it may not be suitable for a large-scale reactor because it tends to retain the fuel in the wall. Tungsten is advantageous for retaining far less fuel. However, fusion experiments in tungsten machines are very difficult because, if even minute amounts of tungsten get into the plasma, radiation from them can rapidly cool the plasma.

DECTRIS Ltd., a pioneer in X-ray detector technology, has partnered since 2007 with the Advanced Projects team of the PPPL to develop detectors that are specifically designed for plasma monitoring. “DECTRIS’ earliest large contract in 2007 was a special configuration of 4 PILATUS 100K cameras for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory”, recalls Christian Brönnimann, DECTRIS’ founder and President of the Board. “The huge success of this project was the basis of our business in plasma fusion diagnostics and our very successful collaboration with the PPPL. We congratulate the PPPL for this outstanding milestone, which will have a big impact on our path towards a sustainable future!” 

Luis Delgado-Aparicio, PPPL’s Head of Advanced Projects and Lead Scientist for physics research and the X-ray detector project, explains further: “We use the emitted X-rays and their intensity for plasma diagnostics, which allow us to understand how it moves, but also to measure its temperature, velocity, pressure, and density. This is why we depend on reliable X-ray detectors in our work”.


PPPL’s Tullio Barbui, Novimir Pablant and Luis Delgado-Aparicio work on their multi-energy soft X-ray detector (ME-SXR) at DECTRIS


A Long-Lasting partnership

“The plasma fusion community was among the first to test the Hybrid-Photon-Counting technology to monitor plasma dynamics”, says DECTRIS Head of Sales Nicolas Pilet, who has been working with Luis’ team for many years on the joint development of specific detectors, the DECTRIS Specific Solutions. “Today, WEST achieved unprecedented results, and we would like to congratulate the team on their success. Plasma fusion is a fascinating scientific field that holds great promise for humanity. We are incredibly proud to contribute to this development with our products, and are thrilled by our excellent collaboration”.

At WEST, PPPL researchers used a novel approach to measure several properties of the plasma radiation. Their approach involved a specially adapted X-ray detector, which was made by DECTRIS and modified by Luis and others on his research team. “The diagnostic basically measures the X-ray radiation produced by the plasma”, says Tullio Barbui, one of the researchers. “Through the measure of this radiation, we can infer very important properties of the plasma, such as the electron temperature in the real core of the plasma, where it is the hottest”.


Specific Detectors for Plasma Diagnostics

DECTRIS Specific Solutions enable usage in a vacuum, in magnetic fields, and in the special geometry that is needed for plasma spectroscopy. DECTRIS provides a specific geometry of the camera to study the X-rays emitted by the plasma. Researchers can “observe X-rays using pinhole cameras” and “scan the whole plasma emission”, as Luis explained during a visit to DECTRIS’ headquarters in 2019. 

“The X-ray detector involved in measuring several properties of the plasma radiation is exposed to the harsh environment of the tokamak”, explains Benjamin Lüthi, Project Lead for Specific Solutions at DECTRIS. “In a fruitful collaboration between PPPL researchers and DECTRIS engineers over many years, this custom-made detector was continuously improved towards a highly reliable and well-performing X-ray camera”. Benjamin also highlights the importance of testing at tokamaks in product development: “We extensively test components under a vacuum and in strong magnetic fields. But, most importantly, we continuously integrate the feedback and results received from the tests performed at tokamaks, and this enables us to further develop the next-generation detector”.

The tungsten environment is very relevant to future fusion reactors to produce energy, and contributed to our common success. A previous version of the device — Tore Supra — achieved a slightly longer reaction, or shot, but back then, the machine’s interior was made of graphite tiles. While carbon makes the environment easier for long shots, it may not be suitable for a large-scale reactor because the carbon tends to retain the fuel in the wall, which will be unacceptable in a reactor where efficient recovery of tritium from the reactor chamber and reintroduction into the plasma will be paramount. Tungsten is advantageous for retaining far less fuel, but if even minute amounts of tungsten get into the plasma, radiation from the tungsten can rapidly cool the plasma. “The tungsten-wall environment is far more challenging than using carbon,” said Delgado-Aparicio. “This is, simply, the difference between trying to grab your kitten at home versus trying to pet the wildest lion.”

Our main assets at DECTRIS are our proximity to the scientific community and our intimate relationships with researchers around the world. Thanks to this mutual trust, we can help them solve important challenges and achieve great results with our detectors. DECTRIS is proud to be part of this story and excited to continue working with researchers to make fusion a sustainable source of energy for mankind.


Dr. Luis Felipe Delgado-Aparicio on his visit to DECTRIS in December 2019.



DECTRIS Ltd. develops and manufactures state-of-the-art X-ray and electron detection cameras to spark scientific breakthroughs around the world. While photographic cameras capture visible light, DECTRIS cameras count individual X-ray photons and electrons. DECTRIS is the global market leader at synchrotron light sources. Laboratories also achieve high-quality results with our technology. Our detectors played for example a decisive role in the determination of the structures of the coronavirus. Our impact extends to research in the sectors of energy, the environment, and industry, and we offer novel solutions for medical applications. We support researchers everywhere from our offices in Switzerland, Japan and the United States. More at


About the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)

PPPL is mastering the art of using plasma — the fourth state of matter — to solve some of the world's toughest science and technology challenges. Nestled on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, New Jersey, our research ignites innovation in a range of applications including fusion energy, nanoscale fabrication, quantum materials and devices, and sustainability science. The University manages the Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the nation’s single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences. Feel the heat at and
PPPL media contact: Rachel Kremen, ‪+1 (609) 552-1135‬

Contact Information

Press Contact

Clara Demin, Senior Communications Manager

+41 (0) 56 500 31 51


Media Package & Visuals


Recent scientific publications


Chellaï, O., L.F. Delgado-Aparicio, J. Wallace, T. Barbui, D. Bishop, R. Ellis, K.W. Hill, et al. “Design of a Multi-Energy Soft X-Ray Diagnostic for Profile Measurements during Long-Pulse Operation in the WEST Tokamak.” Fusion Engineering and Design 203 (June 2024): 114390.

Da Ros, A., D. Vezinet, G. Colledani, Christel Fenzi-Bonizec, G. Moureau, G. Bertschinger, and the WEST Team. “Electron and Ion Temperature Measurement with a New X-Ray Imaging Crystal Spectrometer on WEST.” Review of Scientific Instruments 95, no. 4 (April 1, 2024): 043505.



Barbui, T., O. Chellai, L.F. Delgado-Aparicio, R. Ellis, K. Hill, B. Stratton, J. Wallace, et al. “Design and Engineering Challenges of a Multi-Energy Hard x-Ray Camera for Long-Pulse Profile Measurements at WEST Tokamak.” Fusion Engineering and Design 173 (December 2021): 112957.

Delgado-Aparicio, L. F., P. VanMeter, T. Barbui, O. Chellai, J. Wallace, H. Yamazaki, S. Kojima, et al. “Multi-Energy Reconstructions, Central Electron Temperature Measurements, and Early Detection of the Birth and Growth of Runaway Electrons Using a Versatile Soft x-Ray Pinhole Camera at MST.” Review of Scientific Instruments 92, no. 7 (July 2, 2021): 073502.

Chellai, O., L. F. Delgado-Aparicio, P. VanMeter, T. Barbui, J. Wallace, K. W. Hill, N. Pablant, et al. “Calibration of a Versatile Multi-Energy Soft x-Ray Diagnostic for WEST Long Pulse Plasmas.” Review of Scientific Instruments 92, no. 4 (April 1, 2021): 043509.

Barbui, T., L. F. Delgado-Aparicio, N. Pablant, C. Disch, B. Luethi, N. Pilet, B. Stratton, and P. VanMeter. “Multi-Energy Calibration of a PILATUS3 CdTe Detector for Hard x-Ray Measurements of Magnetically Confined Fusion Plasmas.” Review of Scientific Instruments 92, no. 2 (February 1, 2021): 023105.

Lee, S. G., M. K. Kim, and Y. S. Kim. “Progress of X-Ray Imaging Crystal Spectrometer Utilizing Double Crystal Assembly on KSTAR.” Review of Scientific Instruments 92, no. 2 (February 1, 2021): 023501.

Barbui, T., L. F. Delgado-Aparicio, N. Pablant, C. Disch, B. Luethi, N. Pilet, B. Stratton, and P. VanMeter. “Multi-Energy Calibration of a PILATUS3 CdTe Detector for Hard x-Ray Measurements of Magnetically Confined Fusion Plasmas.” Review of Scientific Instruments 92, no. 2 (February 1, 2021): 023105.


Corporate news // 11.04.2024

April 7, 2024

BADEN, April 7, 2024 - On the World Health Day, we commemorate the global impact of our technology, enabling structural biologists worldwide to make important breakthroughs in public health. 

Since the first PILATUS X-ray detector revolutionized biological research at synchrotron light sources over fifteen years ago, progress in life sciences, drug discovery and drug development accelerated, including the development of vaccines. This faster, more structure-based approach to do biological research led to many important discoveries. As a pioneering technique in Structural Biology, Macromolecular Crystallography functioned as a catalyst for scientists to identify the structures of macromolecules, such as proteins, DNA, or RNA. Determining the macromolecules’ structures is key for understanding their biological function, and therefore for aiding drug design and development.

DECTRIS Ltd, global developer and manufacturer of Hybrid Photon Counting detectors for X-ray and Electron Microscopy research, has enabled with its two detector series, PILATUS and EIGER, the determination of around 59,000 structures in total. In 2023, 81% of the X-ray structures deposited in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) were collected with these detectors, as compared to those that were identified using other X-ray detection technologies (CCD or CMOS). To celebrate World Health Day, we want to commemorate the impact of this leading application of X-ray research in the field of Life Sciences, and to describe its use in academic and private laboratories before samples are studied in more detail at synchrotrons.

In the pharmaceutical industry, powerful laboratory diffractometers are essential for pharmaceutical research, development and quality control during production. They allow for all aspects of the experiment to be under full control and for decisions to be made quickly. Among others, Astex Pharmaceutical in the UK, Array Biopharma in the US, and Novo Nordisk in Denmark are all productive with state-of-the-art diffractometers with EIGER R 1M or PILATUS3 R 1M detectors.

In drug development, researchers from the laboratory of Prof. Martin Safo at Virginia Commonwealth University studied the structure-function relationship of hemoglobin. Their goal was to develop an anti-sickling agent against sickle cell disease, a hereditary blood disorder that is associated with anemia, infections, episodes of pain, and delayed growth and development.

The fight against Trypanosoma diseases, such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease, and leishmaniasis also requires X-ray research in laboratories. These diseases, which pose serious health problems in developing countries, are caused by trypanosomes, protozoans characterized by a unique trypanothione redox system. Prof. Emil Pai‘s group in a laboratory at the University of Toronto studied trypanothione reductase inhibitors, an attractive class of ligands that is inactive against organisms with conventional glutathione redox systems.

Drugs for fighting blood cancers can also be designed after structural enzymology studies. Dr. Alexander Wlodawer’s team in a laboratory at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick studied the catalytic mechanism of L-asparaginases. These are enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of the amino acid asparagine into aspartate. They are clinically important for the treatment of certain leukemias and lymphomas. 

To summarize, Macromolecular Crystallography is a powerful technique that facilitates research on molecules, from their structure and function to the design of suitable drugs. Together with the evolution of other Structural Biology methods, Macromolecular Crystallography will continue to advance research in Life Sciences and in the pharmaceutical industry.



DECTRIS develops and manufactures the most accurate X-ray and electron cameras to spark scientific breakthroughs around the world. While photographic cameras capture visible light, DECTRIS cameras count individual X-ray photons and electrons. DECTRIS is the global market leader at synchrotrons. Our efficient detector systems help scientists achieve high-quality results also in their laboratories. Our detectors played for example a decisive role in the determination of the structures of the coronavirus. The DECTRIS electron detectors create unique opportunities in material science, and we offer novel solutions for medical applications. We support researchers everywhere from our offices in Switzerland, Japan and the United States.


About this article

Parts of this article were written by DECTRIS former structural biochemist Andreas Förster in February 2020, a year before he sadly passed away after losing his battle against cancer. By bringing his research back four years after, we also pay tribute to him and to his important contributions in the field of crystallography and structural biology.


About Macromolecular Crystallography

Macromolecular Crystallography (MX) is the most powerful method for determining the three-dimensional structures of biological macromolecules. It tends to achieve the highest-resolution information and gives the most reliable structures, while not suffering from limitations on sample size - as long as crystals are available.


Contact Information

Press Contact

Dr. Clara Demin

Senior Communications Manager

+41 (0) 56 500 31 51


Contact for interview

Dr. Sofia Trampari

Application Scientist, X-Ray Crystallography



Structural biology in the pharmaceutical industry

  • J. B. Fell et al., ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 9, 1230-1234 (2018)

  • T. D. Heightman et al., J. Med. Chem. 62, 4683-4702 (2019)

  • A. M. Kidger et al., Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, online first (2019)

  • A. Oddo et al., Biochemistry. 57, 4148-4154 (2018)


Sickle-cell disease

  • T. M. Deshpande et al., Acta Cryst D. 74, 956-964 (2018)

  • A. Nakagawa et al., Molecular Pharmaceutics. 15, 1954-1963 (2018)

  • P. P. Pagare et al., Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 26, 2530-2538 (2018)

    6DI4, 6BNR, 6BWP, 6BWU (EIGER R 4M).


Trypanosoma diseases

  • R. De Gasparo et al., Chemistry-A European Journal. 25, 11416-11421 (2019)



  • J. Lubkowski et al., Protein Science. 28, 1850-1864 (2019)

  • J. Lubkowski et al., Scientific Reports. 9 (2019)

Corporate news // 04.03.2024

Today at DECTRIS, we celebrate UNESCO’s fifth World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development. We highlight the critical roles of our engineers in building high-performing detectors to advance science and progress toward a sustainable future. 

At DECTRIS, we have more than ten Engineering specializations across the whole product life cycle. Over 50 highly specialized and skilled engineers are actively involved in the process. They develop software, electronic circuits, and mechanical and IT solutions; they bring in expertise during production; and, finally, they commission our detectors in research facilities worldwide. These engineers and roles correspond to more than a third of our total employees.

As a Swiss high-tech company manufacturing X-ray and electron detectors for synchrotron radiation facilities and laboratories, we have included sustainable development in our vision. We strive to be a sustainable, independent, and trusting company that anticipates the needs of scientists and engineers around the world.


The Voices of Our Engineers

Hear the voices of our engineers, working in Operations, Development, and Marketing & Sales.


Simon Zimmer, Process Engineer: 

“Curiosity, Innovation, and a Sustainable Future”

Simon Zimmer, a Process Engineer and member of the Compliance and Sustainability Team, explains his passion for his job: "My journey into Engineering was fueled by a curiosity to understand how things work. I am driven by a commitment to using that knowledge to engineer a thriving and sustainable future. Together, let's engineer a sustainable tomorrow".


Pavel Novak, Facility and Equipment Engineer:

“I see a future in which we will have to rely on simpler, less complex systems”

Pavel is responsible for performing maintenance and building automation at DECTRIS; this includes installation of special machines such as X-ray boxes. He also monitors our energy consumption and, last year, provided data for a tool to monitor our environmental impact better. This is how he describes his work:

“I decided to study Engineering because I had already completed an apprenticeship in handcraft and enjoyed technical solutions. I was driven by the desire for further education and my fascination for technology. My strong systemic thinking and desire for personal development also motivated me to learn more about technology and develop innovative solutions. 

“Today, as an engineer, I work to deepen my understanding of objects, situations, and functions in order to optimize building automation and create clarity in the area of facility management. I ensure stable installations and environments to carry out detector tests, identify potential savings through energy monitoring in the building, and organize and plan the replacement and maintenance of installations.

“In my opinion, the complexity of a system lies more in its characteristics, while its ‘complicatedness’ is related to the understanding of objects or situations. Given the shortage of suitable specialists, I see a future in which we will have to rely on simpler, less complex systems. That is why I strive to work on sustainable and simple solutions, in which various components interact with each other and the consequences of these interactions are easily predictable”.

Rolf Bachmann, Electrical Engineer, Hardware Design:

“A Better World with Better Products”

Rolf explains the sustainable visions behind his job: “Electrical engineers design the best possible circuits and source code that fit the specific application of their detectors, in order to enable the hardware in the detectors to guarantee best-in-class performance. In turn, this will allow scientists to obtain the best possible results”. 

For Rolf, “[b]eing an engineer is not a title, but an inner attitude. I learn about myself and the world every day, and I use this knowledge and skill to make the world a better place and improve myself. My contribution to a better world is better products that move us forward as humanity”. 

Francesco Marafatto, Field System Engineer: 

“Ensuring the Long Life of Products”

“As an engineer at DECTRIS, I ensure that the end user’s experimental downtime is minimized as much as possible, and that customers can get the most out of our detectors,” explains Francesco Marafatto, Field System Engineer and member of the DECTRIS Compliance and Sustainability team. 

In his role, Francesco travels to research facilities - synchrotron light sources and laboratories - to commission and repair our detectors, as well as to support scientists on site. “I believe that what I can do to give a more sustainable future to our planet, as a Field System Engineer at DECTRIS, is to ensure that our products are repairable as much as possible. Personally, I strongly advocate for the ‘right to repair’ in general, because this strongly reduces the need for mineral resources to produce new products”.


Marlies Reher, Field System Engineer: 

“Extend the lifetime of detectors, minimize the use of mineral resources”

Marlies, who joined DECTRIS two months ago in the same Engineering specialty as Francesco, reflects on her role and impact on society: "The UNESCO World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development is a good opportunity for us engineers to remind ourselves to use our technical competence not only for the profit of the company, but also to promote sustainable development inside and outside of DECTRIS”. 

She highlights the importance of saving the resources of our planet through informed and expert engineering: “For example, it lies in the hands of DECTRIS engineers to design and build long-lasting detectors to minimize the use of mineral resources. As an engineer in the Support Team, I repair detectors to extend their lifetime. Even after a detector type is no longer produced, and it has officially reached the end of guaranteed support, we do our best to continue providing support to the users of these old detectors. Apart from saving natural resources, this support helps to promote inclusion in research, since customers from institutions with little funding can continue doing research with their detector".


Engineering at DECTRIS: Over Ten Specializations Across the Product Life Cycle

At DECTRIS, we have twelve Engineering specializations, in which almost a third of our employees work.

  • In Research & Development, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, and ICT System engineers work, respectively, on the following: electronic circuits and Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs); the mechanical assembly and housing; developing the software and IT infrastructure required for running our detector systems; maintaining the entire IT infrastructure.

  • In Operations, the production engineers and process engineers develop, maintain, and optimize all processes and machines that are necessary for reliably manufacturing our detectors. Our two integration engineers are positioned between Development and Operations; they oversee the product's integration, from sales to delivery. Our equipment engineers are responsible for providing media and equipment for production, as well as for the building of infrastructure.

  • In Marketing & Sales, our field system engineers are specialists in commissioning detectors in research facilities, synchrotron radiation facilities, or laboratories. They support customers with repairs and troubleshooting. Product engineers take care of the product families throughout the entire life cycle, initiate efficiency- and operation-saving adjustments, and implement product changes.

Corporate news // 08.02.2024

HIMEJI, February 6, 2024 – DECTRIS Japan celebrates 3 years since its establishment in January 2021, facilitating the dialogue with national X-ray research facilities, and establishing itself as the new distributor of choice for Hybrid Photon Counting detectors in Japan. The success of the DECTRIS technology in Japan today goes back to the origins of the collaboration, 17 years ago, between the Japanese X-ray analytical equipment manufacturer Rigaku and the Swiss start-up.

Featured beamlines // 22.01.2024

Discover the MX group members’ journey of integrating a DECTRIS PILATUS4 detector into their beamline control system at the Swiss Light Source (SLS). Learn about the remarkably smooth integration, minimal effort, and great user experience! 

Electron microscopy // 26.10.2023

DECTRIS participated in IMC20, where the company’s workshop generated significant interest and promoted engagement with the Electron Microscopy community.

Product updates // 22.09.2023

Among the highlights at the IUCr 2023 were DECTRIS’ PILATUS4 launch, an Exhibition and Scientific Contributions, a DECTRIS Party, and lots of fun times!

Corporate news // 28.07.2023

Our former Head of Support and Commissioning has moved into a new position. What stays the same is Sascha’s desire to be part of the story; to work with engineers and scientists in order to enable synchrotron science.

Corporate news // 28.07.2023

Sofia is passionate about science and new collaborations. She joined DECTRIS this April, and she is looking forward to getting to know our detector users better. IUCr 2023 in Melbourne is a great opportunity for her to do just that.

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