Crystal Structure Theory and Applications, 2012, 1, 21-24 Published Online December 2012 (
Lead Iodide Crystals as Input Material for
Radiation Detectors
Sunil Kumar Chaudhary
Department of Physics, Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, India
Received September 3, 2012; revised October 6, 2012; accepted October 15, 2012
Lead iodide is an important inorganic solid for fundamental research and possible technological applications and is con-
sidered to be a potential room temperature nuclear radiation detector. In lead iodide the phenomenon of polytypism is
posing an interesting problem of phase transformations amongst its various polytypic modifications. The transforma-
tions have also been observed even when the crystals are stored for few months. It causes deterioration in functioning of
PbI2 devices. Taking into account the known structures of PbI2 and the data available on the mode of growth and stor-
age of crystals, it has been concluded that purified melt grown crystals of PbI2 are the best suited for nuclear radiation
Keywords: Lead Iodide; Polytypism; Crystal Structure; Phase Transformations
1. Introduction
In the last decade the technology of radiation detectors
has improved greatly. Room temperature operated de-
tectors have found many applications such as image de-
vices, preventing nuclear matter smuggling and scientific
instruments. The lead iodide and mercuric iodide are the
leading candidates because of wide band gap that makes
high resistivity, large mass density and high atomic
number that provides a high stopping power [1]. Out of
these the lead iodide has an edge over mercuric iodide
because growing single crystals of lead iodide are sim-
pler as compared to mercuric iodide as lead iodide has
lower vapour pressure than mercuric iodide and better
chemical stability. Further, phase transition between or-
thorhombic and tetragonal phases of mercury iodide at
400 K limits the bulk growth of mercuric iodide crystals
and can be grown only by vapour phase.
Polytypism has been engaging interest of scientists for
long by the fact that various structures of the same sub-
stance have been found to possess different electronic
properties [2]. In the case of lead iodide the co-existence
of more than one polytype in the same crystal, occur-
rence of phase transformations during storage, transfor-
mations to various modifications due to presence of na-
tive impurities and defects are some of the effects that
may cause notable deterioration of their performance as
detector. Polytypic effects can be serious in electrical
power applications utilizing very wide band gap crystal-
line material SiC [3] and such problems have also been
frequently encountered in pharmaceutical applications
and patients intake safety [4]. There are number of tech-
nological processes like average energy per electron-hole
pair, typical mean time for the carriers mu-tau products,
charge collection efficiency and the resistivity required to
be optimized for the fabrication of PbI2 detectors but
initially it is necessary to grow the pure crystals that may
be required for device application with reproducible pro-
perties. To achieve this it becomes obvious to study their
mode of growth and phase transformations on storage.
Recently Matuchova et al. [5] have investigated PbI2
crystals for their conductivity with and without impuri-
ties. Crystals prepared after purification with 20 zone
passes, the conductivity was reduced to 10–13 –1cm–1.
Further a decrease in conductivity was also observed
amongst the crystals synthesized in the presence of Ho
and Tm (rare earth elements) but no satisfactory explana-
tion has been given. A deep understanding of role played
by the impurities can be helpful in optimizing the condi-
tions of growth of crystals for the fabrication of desired
quality of the detector.
Therefore considering the known structures of PbI2
from Inorganic Crystallographic Structure Database (ICSD)
and the mechanism of phase transformations in lead io-
dide due to distortion of [PbI6]4 octahedron, we review
the effect of storage in the crystals grown by various dif-
ferent modes and conclude for the most suitable method
for the device application.
opyright © 2012 SciRes. CSTA
2. Known Polytypes and Phase
Transformations in Lead Iodide Crystals
The lead iodide crystals can be prepared by various me-
thods but prominently these are grown by gel, vapour
and melt. It crystallizes in Hexagonal and rhombohedral
structures and till today more than 40 polytypes have
been reported and a total of 20 structures have been de-
termined. Table 1 shows the known structures of PbI2. It
is clear that main basic types of crystalline PbI2 polytypic
modifications are 2H, 4H and 12R. Here
the departure from ideal octahedron [PbI6]4. It is to be
noted that each polytype has different departure from
octahedral [PbI6]4 arrangement. One such distorted oc-
tahedron is shown in Figure 1. Departure from exact
octahedron (all values of
are zero for a perfect octa-
hedron) may be due to presence of impurities in the
starting material. It is worth-noting that all the crystals
whose structures were determined have been grown from
vapour or gel. From 1959 to 1985 over a period of 25
years there is no discussion of impurities that might be
responsible for departure from octahedral arrangement. It
is well established that polytype 2H is stable when crys-
tals are grown at room temperature and 12R is stable
when the crystals are grown at high temperature [6]. 4H
is considered to be a metastable structure that is formed
when a 2H structure is annealed at a temperature over
140˚C - 200˚C [7]. It has also been reported that laser
irradiation of 2H polytype of PbI2 cannot produce 2H
4H phase transformation but can induce irreversible 4H
2H phase transformation [8].
Table 1. PbI2 polytypes with known structures.
ICSD# Pb-I (nm)
(°) Z poly-type a & b (nm) c/Z (nm)
024262 0.322 0.22 1 2H 0.4557 0.6979
042013 0.323 0.21 1 2H 0.4557 0.6979
068819 0.323 0.16 1 2H 0.4558 0.6986
024263 0.322 0.20 2 4H 0.4557 0.6979
024265 0.322 0.20 3 6H 0.4557 0.6979
024264 0.321 0.40 3 6R 0.4557 0.6979
060327 0.316 2.40 4 8H 0.4557 0.6979
023762 0.323 0.23 5 10H 0.4557 0.6979
108927 0.316 2.40 6 12H 0.4560 0.6978
108914 0.315 4.50 6 12R 0.4560 0.6978
024266 0.321 0.08 6 12R 0.4557 0.6979
042014 0.325 –1.1 6 12R 0.4557 0.6978
060186 0.316 2.40 6 12R 0.4560 0.6979
023763 0.322 0.08 7 14H 0.4557 0.6979
108906 0.316 2.40 9 18R1 0.4560 0.6990
108913 0.306 6.50 9 18R2 0.4560 0.6200
023764 0.323 - 10 20H 0.4557 0.6979
042510 0.316 2.40 12 24R 0.4557 0.6979
060328 0.316 2.40 15 30H 0.4557 0.6979
042511 0.316 2.50 18 36R 0.4557 0.6979
Figure 1. The near octahedral [PbI6]4. It has six equal Pb, I
distances, six I-Pb-I angles that are smaller than 90˚ by
and six 1-Pb-1 angles that are larger than 90˚ by the same
deviation. The angle
is a measure of deviation from octa-
hedral symmetry.
The actual mechanism of polytype formation in PbI2 is
complex. There is still a great amount of dispute about
the phase transformation even amongst the simple poly-
types 2H, 12R and 4H which can co-exist in the same
crystal in different proportions. Even higher order PbI2
polytypes could also exist in hexagonal or rhombo-
hedral structure (Table 1). According to existing litera-
ture the structural defects, imperfections native/extrinsic
impurities in PbI2 may provoke the co-existence of va-
rious polytypes. It is very difficult to detect any differ-
rence between various polytypes by measuring physical
properties which always reflects the average property of
the material.
Earlier Chaudhary & Kaur [9] have given a mecha-
nism of phase transition between polytypes due to impu-
rities. It is to be noted that the mechanism is only valid at
a local scale in the vicinity of the impurity and the atoms
rearrange within single layers. With this, it is difficult to
explain the transformation of the whole crystal from one
form to the other. The possible mechanism could be that
transformation may spread over the whole crystal from a
single nucleation centre or the whole structure may be-
come unstable and atoms may become mobile enough to
create a new stacking which is the most stable one.
3. Studies on Storage of Lead Iodide Crystals
PbI2 structure consists of various stackings of PbI2 sheets
in each of which a layer of Pb ions is sandwiched be-
tween two close packed layers of iodine ions and I-Pb-I
sandwich being the repeat unit. The binding within a
sandwich believed to be largely ionic, is quite strong but
two adjacent sandwiches are bound together with weak
van der Walls forces.
As our interest goes for the device fabrication that may
give reliable results for a long time, it becomes necessary
to examine carefully the results of storage of PbI2 crys-
tals (Table 2).
Out of seven categories there are four categories where
the crystals do not transform to another structure after
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. CSTA
Table 2. Results of X-ray characterization of PbI2 crystals
and storage.
No. of crystals Structure of as grown
crystals Storage*
1) Crystals grown from gel (Soudmand & Trigunayat (1989) [14])
Undoped crystals (20)
40 X-ray photographs All 2H (40)
After heating converted
to 12R but restored to
2H after storage
AgI doped crystals (15)
30 X-ray photographs
2H (21), 3H (3), 12H
(2), 16H (1), 12R (3)
Do not change to 2H
after heating and storing
at room temperature
2) Crystals grown from vapour (Jain & Trigunayat (1996) [15])
Undoped crystals (20)
40 X-ray photographs All 12R (40) No change after storage
AgI doped crystals (20)
40 X-ray photographs
12R (13)
(4H + 12R) (16)
(2H + 12R) (11)
All crystals transform
to 2H
3) Crystals grown from melt (Chaudhary & Trigunayat (1987) [16])
Very pure crystals
39 X-ray photographs
(20 zone passes)
All 12R (39) No change after storage
More pure crystals 46
X-ray photographs
(12-14 zone passes)
12R (36)
4H + 12R (8)
2H + 12R (2)
All crystals transform
to 2H
Less pure crystals
75 X-ray photographs
(6 - 8 zone passes)
12R (51)
12R + 4H (24) No change after storage
*Storage time in all the cases is few months.
1) Undoped crystals grown from gel (all 2H)
2) Undoped crystals grown from vapour (all 12R)
3) Very pure crystals grown from melt (all 12R)
4) Less pure crystals grown from melt (12R), (12R +
These observations clearly establish a link between
purity of material and phase transitions between poly-
types. The explanation for the choice of best crystals for
detector is as follows.
In gel growth, the impurities can enter the crystals
from both reactants and the gel medium whereas in va-
pour growth, comparatively pure crystals can be grown
as only volatile impurities can enter into the crystal. Fur-
ther streaking and arcing has frequently been reported in
the gel grown crystals [7]. However in both the cases,
size of the grown crystal is small. However, vapour
grown crystals could be a better option for the devices.
When we examine crystals grown from melt, it is ob-
served that structure of very pure and less pure crystals
do not change after storage. If the degree of impurities is
high, (less pure crystals) that may cause excessive distor-
tion of octahedron, that makes the iodine planes uneven
which leads to interlocking and blockage of iodine planes
which in turn do not allow the various structures to
transform to 2H. In highly pure crystals that are deprived
of impurities, there is no distortion of octahedron, thus no
room temperature transformation may be expected. For
the crystals containing intermediate amount of impurities
(“more pure crystals” in Table 2) the iodine layers are
not as close packed as should have been in absence of
impurities. These layers are prone to translation/rotation
due to weak binding and are responsible for the forma-
tion of polytypes. Wahab and Trigunayat have reported
that such transformations can take place by layer dis-
placements during crystal growth and high temperature
treatment of polytypes [10,11]. The above observation
indicates that phase transformation can also take place by
suitable impurity and/or time effects. Though “less pure”
crystals have not transformed after storage but it is ex-
pected that they may get transformed after a long period
of storage. Thus less pure crystals should also be ignored
for device fabrication.
Now we are left with two options, very pure crystals
grown from melt and the crystals grown from vapour.
Out of the two choices, it is very clear that material of
melt grown crystals has been purified by zone refining
technique and impurities present in the starting material
like Ag and Mn have been reduced to <<1 ppm and
crystal has grown as a perfect one. An X-ray diffraction
showing the reflections of photographs 12R structure is
reproduced in Figure 2. The photograph is free of
streaking and arcing (that measure the degree of disorder
and tilt boundaries in the crystal). Further in melt growth
(using zone refining system) one can better manipulate
the impurities if required, and have a control on the size
of the crystal. Thus it is suggested that pure melt grown
crystals are the best choice for the fabrication of the de-
tectors as there is no change in structure during long
storage and of course vapour grown crystals can be the
next choice.
Further, the crystal growth improvements are required
in order to reduce the structural defects and to increase
electron/hole mobilities needed to improve the perfor-
mance of lead iodide radiation detectors.
4. Future Studies
In most of the earlier studies made on PbI2 crystals, the
role played by impurities and the vacancies was being
ignored. The degree and the distribution of vacancies are
also important parameters to be looked for the fabrication
of devices from PbI2 crystals. It is expected that atoms
Figure 2. An a-axis 15˚-oscillation photograph of PbI2 crys-
tal showing the reflections of polytype 12R. CuKα radia-
tions; 3 cm camera.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. CSTA
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. CSTA
surrounded by a large number of vacancies should be
considered to be more mobile than others along the lay-
ers. Further, the density of vacancies and their distribu-
tion play an important role in semi conducting properties
of the materials. In a recent theoretical investigation Ito
et al. [12] have calculated that for SiC polytype with Si
vacancy, 6H structure is formed and 4H structure is fa-
vored in C vacancy condition. Thus showing that vacan-
cies in SiC play an important role in stabilizing a par-
ticular structure. Similar calculations have been made on
ZnS polytypic crystals [13].
[1] M. Hassan, M. Matuchora and K. Zdansky, “Performance
of Lead Iodide Nuclear Radiation Detectors with Intro-
duction of Rare Earth Elements,” Central European
Journal of Physics, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2006, pp. 117-123.
[2] Y. M. Tairov and V. F. Tsvetkov, “Crystal Growth and
Characterization of Polytypic Structures,” Pergamon Press,
Oxford, 1983.
[3] S. E. Saddow and A. Agarwal, “Advances in Silicon Car-
bide Processing and Applications,” Artech House Inc.,
London, 2004.
[4] A. S. Raw, M. S. Furness, D. S. Gill, R. C. Adams, F. O.
Holcombe Jr. and L. X. Yu, “Regulatory Considerations
of Pharmaceutical Solid Polymorphism in Abbreviated
new Drug Applications (ANDAs),” Advanced Drug De-
livery Reviews, Vol. 56, No. 3, 2004, pp. 397-414.
[5] M. Matuchoya, K. Zdansky, J. Zavdil, J. Tonn, M.,
Mousa, A.-G. Jafar, A. N. Danilewsky, A. Croll and J.
Maixner, “Influence of Doping and Non-Stoichiometry
on the Quality of Lead Iodide for Use in X-Ray Detec-
tion,” Journal of Crystal Growth, Vol. 312, No. 8, 2010,
pp. 1233-1239. doi:10.1016/j.jcrysgro.2009.12.034
[6] G. C. Trigunayat, “Present Status of Polytypism in MX2
Compounds,” Phase Transitions: A Multinational Journal,
Vol. 16-17, No. 1-4, 1989, pp. 509-527.
[7] E. Salje, B. Palosz and B. Wruck, “In Situ Observation of
the Polytypic Phase Transition 2H-12R in PbI2: Investi-
gation of the Thermodynamic, Structural and Dielectric
Properties,” Journal of Physics C: Solid State Physics,
Vol. 20, No. 26, 1987, pp. 4077- 4096.
[8] V. A. Bibik, I. V. Blonski, M. S. Brodin and N. A. Davy-
dova, “Structural Phase Transition in Layer Semiconduc-
tor PbI2 Induced by Laser Irradiation,” Physica Status
Solidi (a), Vol. 90, No. 1, 1985, pp. K11-K14.
[9] S. K. Chaudhry and H. Kaur, “Impurity Induced Struc-
tural Phase Transformations in Melt Grown Single Crys-
tals of Lead Iodide,” Crystal Research and Technology,
Vol. 46, No. 12, 2011, pp. 1235-1240.
[10] M. A. Wahab and G. C. Trigunayat, “Mode of Layer Dis-
placements in MX2-Type Crystals,” Solid State Commu-
nication, Vol. 36, No. 10, 1981, pp. 885-889.
[11] M. A. Wahab and G. C. Trigunayat, “Low Temperature
X-Ray Diffraction Study of CdI2 Crystals,” Crystal Re-
search and Technology, Vol. 24, No. 4, 1989, pp. 355-
363. doi:10.1002/crat.2170240403
[12] T. Ito, T. Kondo, T. Akiyama and K. Nakamura, “Theo-
retical Investigation of the Polytypism in Silicon Carbide:
Contribution of the Vacancy Formation,” Physica Status
Solidi (c), Vol. 8, No. 2, 2011, pp. 583-585.
[13] T. Ito, T. Kondo, T. Akiyama and K. Nakamura, “Theo-
retical Investigations for the Polytypism in Semiconduc-
tors,” Journal of Crystal Growth, Vol. 318, No. 1, 2011,
pp. 141-144. doi:10.1016/j.jcrysgro.2010.10.089
[14] M. Soudmand and G. C. Trigunayat, “Phase Transforma-
tions in PbI2 Crystals with Temperature,” Phase Transi-
tions, Vol. 16/17, 1989, pp. 417-424.
[15] A. Jain and G. C. Trigunayat, “Growth and Polytype
Transformation of AgI-Doped and Undoped PbI2 Crys-
tals,” Acta Crystallographica Section A, Vol. A52, 1996,
pp. 590-595.
[16] S. K. Chaudhary and G. C. Trigunayat, “Polytypism in
Melt Grown Crystals of CdI2, PbI2 and CdBr2,” Acta Cry-
stallographica Section A, Vol. B43, 1987, pp. 225-230.