We describe the design and characterization of a high resolution, high efficiency detector for two-dimensional imaging of neutral atoms. Incident atoms are surface-ionized by a tungsten-coated hot ribbon and the resulting ions are accelerated into a microchannel plate detector with a phosphor screen output. With this design we can detect individual alkali and other low ionization potential atoms and molecules with a spatial resolution of ∼ 20 μm. We find backgrounds on the order of 30 Hz over an active detection region of 20 mm2, a time response of ⩽ 1/30 s, and a detection efficiency of ∼ 50%. This detector can be used to image cold as well as thermal atomic or molecular beams.



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