An experimental and theoretical study of the dark current and x-ray sensitivity of amorphous selenium x-ray photoconductors
Frey, Joel B.
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Recently, the world of diagnostic radiography has seen the integration of digital flat panel x-ray image detectors into x-ray imaging systems, replacing analog film screens. These flat panel x-ray imagers (FPXIs) have been shown to produce high quality x-ray images and provide many advantages that are inherent to a fully digital technology. Direct conversion FPXIs based on a photoconductive layer of stabilized amorphous selenium (a-Se) have been commercialized and have proven particularly effective in the field of mammography. In the operation of these detectors, incident x-ray photons are converted directly to charge carriers in the a-Se layer and drifted to electrodes on either side of the layer by a large applied field (10 V/μm). The applied field causes a dark current to flow which is not due to the incident radiation and this becomes a source of noise which can reduce the dynamic range of the detector. The level of dark current in commercialized detectors has been reduced by the deposition of thin n- and p- type blocking layers between the electrodes and the bulk of the a-Se. Despite recent research into the dark current in metal/a-Se/metal sandwich structures, much is still unknown about the true cause and nature of this phenomenon. The work in this Ph.D. thesis describes an experimental and theoretical study of the dark current in these structures. Experiments have been performed on five separate sets of a-Se samples which approximate the photoconductive layer in an FPXI. The dark current has been measured as a function of time, sample structure, applied field, sample thickness and contact metal used. This work has conclusively shown that the dark current is almost entirely due to the injection of charge carriers from the contacts and the contribution of Poole-Frenkel enhanced bulk thermal generation is negligible. There is also evidence that while the dark current is initially controlled by the injection of holes from the positive contact, several minutes after the application of the bias, the dark current due to hole injection may decay to the point where the electron current becomes significant and even dominant. These conclusions are supported by numerical calculations of the dark current transients which have been calibrated to match experimental results. Work detailed in this Ph.D. thesis also focuses on Monte Carlo modeling of the x-ray sensitivity of a-Se FPXIs. The higher the x-ray sensitivity of a detector, the lower the radiation dose required to acquire an acceptable image. FPXIs can experience a decrease in the x-ray sensitivity of the photoconductive layer with accumulating exposure, leading to a phenomenon known as “ghosting”. Modeling this decrease in sensitivity can uncover the reasons behind it. The Monte Carlo model described in this thesis is a continuation of a previous model which now considers the effects of the n- and p-like blocking layers and the flow of dark current between x-ray exposures. The simulation results explain how deep trapping of photogenerated charge carriers, and the resulting effect on the electric field distribution, contribute to sensitivity loss. The model has shown excellent agreement with experimental data and has accurately predicted a sensitivity recovery once exposure has ceased which is due to primarily to the relaxation of metastable x-ray-induced carrier trap states.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentElectrical and Computer Engineering
SupervisorKasap, Safa O.
CommitteeJohanson, Robert E.; Chen, Li; Chapman, Dean
Copyright DateNovember 2011