What is an MCP device?

Microchannel Plate (MCP) Device

Microchannel Plate (MCP) is a sophisticated device used primarily in the fields of imaging, photonics, and electron multiplication. It consists of a multitude of parallel, microscopic channels (usually in the order of 10 micrometers in diameter) that are embedded in a lead glass substrate. These channels are typically arranged at a slight angle (about 8 to 15 degrees) to the input and output surfaces to prevent direct ion feedback.

Operation Principle

MCPs operate on the principle of secondary electron emission. When electrons, ions, or photons enter the channels at one end, they collide with the channel walls. These collisions result in the emission of secondary electrons due to the kinetic energy transfer. As these secondary electrons accelerate down the channel under an applied electric field, they collide with more walls, creating a cascade of electrons. This process results in a significant amplification of the initial signal, which can then be detected at the output.


  • Imaging and Photonics: MCPs are used in night vision devices, UV and X-ray imaging, and in various scientific instruments for detecting low levels of light or particles.
  • Particle Physics: They are utilized in experiments that require the detection and amplification of particles.
  • Astronomy: MCPs serve in telescopes and space probes for detecting ultraviolet light and other low-intensity signals from distant stars and galaxies.
  • Mass Spectrometry: In this field, MCPs are used to detect charged particles and molecules with high sensitivity.


  • High Sensitivity: Capable of detecting single photons or particles.
  • Fast Response Time: MCPs can operate in the nanosecond range, making them suitable for high-speed applications.
  • Compact Size: Their small size makes them ideal for integration into various devices and instruments.
  • Wide Dynamic Range: MCPs can handle a broad range of signal intensities.


  • Limited Lifetime: The efficiency of MCPs can degrade over time due to the accumulation of ions and residual gases in the channels.
  • Cost: High-quality MCPs can be expensive to manufacture and purchase.
  • Sensitivity to Magnetic Fields: The performance of MCPs can be affected by strong magnetic fields.
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