Detector research within the High Speed Imaging Group is divided into four main themes:

High content multi-channel photon counting with picosecond timing

The aim of this programme is to develop a prototype microchannel plate (MCP) based high content imager primarily for the life sciences, to enhance and speed up by orders of magnitude techniques such as fluorescence lifetime imaging for applications e.g. biological and medical research microscopy, high content proteomics for drug discovery, flow cytometry and clinical diagnostics.

Our 64 channel prototype developed in collaboration with CERN colleagues has achieved 43 ps photon timing resolution and throughput of 10 million photons/s/cm2. Based on this success we have now developed a modular 256 channel commercial prototype electronics system, with the help of a custom chip specifically designed for us by CERN, and are actively seeking funding to translate this to a more economically viable solid state silicon photomultiplier-based instrument for commercialisation.

In parallel we have a project with CERN, Photek and Micron Semiconductors to explore alternative technology, an electron bombarded active pixel sensor which offers potentially higher spatial resolution and throughput.

High spatial resolution optical/UV photon imaging

C-DIR is a novel centroiding image readout with proven ground-breaking performance brought about by very low electronic noise characteristics which allow exceptional spatial resolution/count rate trade-offs. We are fully exploiting C-DIR performance by a parallel development of digital filtering techniques which provide scene-adaptive performance optimisation, as proposed for the ESA JUICE – JUDE instrument.

Scene-adaptive pulse processing electronics

There are opportunities in space science for UV imaging instruments with photon counting sensitivity that can accommodate scenes with large dynamic range whilst maintaining the ability for very high spatial resolution imaging when desired. For example the ESA JUICE mission requires the capability to directly view each hemisphere of Jupiter in addition to separately imaging each of the Europa, Callisto and Ganymede moons. Current UV imaging space instruments have limitations that reduce the performance in meeting this challenge. Bright scenes mean a high photon rate which degrades image resolution due to events overlapping and accommodating this high rate penalises image resolution when low intensity scenes are the source.

HSI Detector Module PrototypeOur research aims to develop an imaging readout system that has the capability for adapting to different luminosity conditions and the flexibility to optimise the image spatial resolution against the photon event rate. To accommodate this challenge it is necessary to use a detector system with great flexibility in processing an individual photon event. The MCP coupled to a C-DIR has the potential to meet this adaptability and forms the basis of this research.

In traditional centroiding image readout schemes a fixed pulse shaping time is selected to provide the best compromise between spatial resolution and count rate. We are developing a detector image readout technology offering major performance advantages over traditional techniques. Utilising a pulse digitisation approach we allow digital filtering schemes to adapt providing optimal, and dynamic, trade-off between count rate and image resolution. This adaptive electronics technique will optimise science return and has the potential to meet the challenges for the next generation of radiation tolerant astronomy and planetary science imaging instruments.

Novel materials  - Graphene Photodetectors

The recent theoretical and experimental work done worldwide has shown the unique mechanical and optoelectronic properties that graphene possesses. Naturally, graphene has no band gap, but there are many methods to open a band gap in bilayer graphene.

Our research looks to simulate and prototype a single counting, colour sensitive photodetector using bilayer graphene. Theory suggests it is possible to run these at higher temperatures, therefore removing the need for more costly cryogens. By tuning the bandgap, we are able to vary the operating temperature and resolution of the detector.

Novel materials - PMT Dynode Materials

Details coming soon

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