Abstracts of Vol. 14, No 1 and 14(1)first_page.pdf      files, full text
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1 - 14(1)1.PDF file, full text

Third-generation sensors for night vision

Third generation sensors are under development to enhance capabilities for target detection and identification, threat warning, and 3D imaging. Distinct programs for both cooled HgCdTe and uncooled microbolometer devices are part of this thrust. This paper will describe the technology for HgCdTe two-colour, high-definition imaging sensors and threat warning devices, avalanche photodiode arrays for 3D imaging, and the supporting technology being developed to enhance the readouts that support these devices. Uncooled detector initiatives will also be described to reduce pixel size in conjunction with the production of 480x640 arrays. Finally, efforts are also beginning to move both photon and thermal detectors closer to radiative-limited performance while simultaneously reducing the cooling requirements for photon detectors.

Keywords: detectors, optical sensors, HgCdTe, microbolometers, uncooled detectors, two-colour detectors, threat warning, avalanche photodiodes, APDs.

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Noise minimization via deep submicron system-on-chip integration in megapixel CMOS imaging sensors

Infrared sensor designers have long maximized S/N ratio by employing pixel-based amplification in conjunction with supplemental noise suppression. Instead, we suppress photodiode noise using novel SoC implementation with simple three transistor pixel; supporting SoC components include a feedback amplifier having elements distributed amongst the pixel and column buffer, a tapered reset clock waveform, and reset timing generator. The tapered reset method does not swell pixel area, compel processing of the correlated reset and signal values, or require additional memory. Integrated in a 2.1 M pixel imager developed for generating high definition television, random noise is ~8e- at video rates to 225 MHz. Random noise of ~30e would otherwise be predicted for the 5 m by 5 m pixels having 5.5 fF detector capacitance with negligible image lag. Minimum sensor S/N ratio is 52 dB with 1920 by 1080 progressive readout at 60 Hz, 72 Hz and 90 Hz. Fixed pattern noise is <2 DN via on-chip signal processing.

Keywords: CMOS image sensor, active pixel sensor, HDTV, FPA, CCD, APS.

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InAs/GaSb superlattice focal plane arrays for high-resolution thermal imaging

The first fully operational mid-IR (35 m) 256x256 IR-FPA camera system based on a type-II InAs/GaSb short-period superlattice showing an excellent noise equivalent temperature difference below 10 mK and a very uniform performance has been realized. We report on the development and fabrication of the detector chip, i.e., epitaxy, processing technology and electro-optical characterization of fully integrated InAs/GaSb superlattice focal plane arrays. While the superlattice design employed for the first demonstrator camera yielded a quantum efficiency around 30%, a superlattice structure grown with a thicker active layer and an optimized V/III BEP ratio during growth of the InAs layers exhibits a significant increase in quantum efficiency. Quantitative responsivity measurements reveal a quantum efficiency of about 60% for InAs/GaSb superlattice focal plane arrays after implementing this design improvement.

Keywords: infrared, focal plane array, superlattice, GaSb, thermal imaging.

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Uncooled microbolometer detector: recent developments at ULIS

Uncooled infrared focal plane arrays are being developed for a wide range of thermal imaging applications. Fire-fighting, predictive maintenance, process control and thermography are a few of the industrial applications which could take benefit from uncooled infrared detector. Therefore, to answer these markets, a 35-m pixel-pitch uncooled IR detector technology has been developed enabling high performance 160x120 and 384x288 arrays production. Besides a wide-band version from uncooled 320x240/45 m array has been also developed in order to address process control and more precisely industrial furnaces control. The ULIS amorphous silicon technology is well adapted to manufacture low cost detector in mass production. After some brief microbolometer technological background, we present the characterization of 35 m pixel-pitch detector as well as the wide-band 320x240 infrared focal plane arrays with a pixel pitch of 45 m.

Keywords: uncooled IRFPA, 2D array, MWIR, LWIR, microbolometer, amorphous silicon.

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Narrow spectral band monolithic lead-chalcogenide-on-Si mid-IR photodetectors

Narrow spectral band infrared detectors are required for multispectral infrared imaging. Wavelength selectivity can be obtained by placing passive line filters in front of the detectors, or, the preferred choice, by making the detectors themselves wavelength selective. We review the first photovoltaic resonant cavity enhanced detectors (RCED) for the mid-IR range. The lead-chalcogenide  (PbEuSe) photodetector is placed as a very thin layer inside an optical cavity. At least one side is terminated with an epitaxial Bragg mirror (consisting of quarter wavelength PbEuSe/BaF2 pairs), while the second mirror may be a metal. Linewidths are as narrow as 37 nm at a peak wavelength of 4400 nm, and peak quantum efficiencies up to above 50% are obtained.

Keywords:  infrared sensors, resonant cavity, lead-chalcogenides, molecular beam epitaxy, silicon substrates.

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Uncooled infrared photodetectors in Poland

The history and present status of the middle and long wavelength Hg1xCdxTe infrared detectors in Poland are reviewed. Research and development efforts in Poland were concentrated mostly on uncooled market niche. 

Technology of the infrared photodetectors has been developed by several research groups. The devices are based on mercury-based variable band gap semiconductor alloys. Modified isothermal vapour phase epitaxy (ISOVPE) has been used for many years for research and commercial fabrication of photoconductive, photoelectromagnetic and other devices. Bulk growth and liquid phase epitaxy was also used. At present, the fabrication of IR devices relies on low temperature epitaxial technique, namely metalorganic vapour phase deposition (MOCVD), frequently in combination with the ISOVPE. 

Photoconductive and photoelectromagnetic detectors are still in production. The devices are gradually replaced with photovoltaic devices which offer inherent advantages of no electric or magnetic bias, no heat load and no flicker noise. Potentially, the PV devices could offer high performance and very fast response. At present, the uncooled long wavelength devices of conventional design suffer from two issues; namely low quantum efficiency and very low junction resistance. It makes them useless for practical applications. The problems have been solved with advanced 3D band gap engineered architecture, multiple cell heterojunction devices connected in series, monolithic integration of the detectors with microoptics and other improvements. Present fabrication program includes devices which are optimized for operation at any wavelength within a wide spectral range 1-15 m and 200300 K temperature range. Special solutions have been applied to improve speed of response. Some devices show picoseconds range response time. The devices have found numerous civilian and military applications. 

Keywords: infrared photodetectors, uncooled detectors, photovoltaic detectors, heterostructures.

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Advanced features of SCD's uncooled detectors

SCD has recently presented an uncooled detector product line based on the high-end VOx bolometer technology. The first FPA launched, BIRD, is a 384x288 (or 320x240) configurable format with 25 m pitch. Typical NETD values for these FPAs range at 50 mK with an F/1 aperture and 60 Hz frame rate. These detectors also exhibit a relatively fast thermal time constant of approximately 10 ms. 

In this paper we elaborate on the special advanced features that were incorporated within the ROIC and supporting algorithms. In this framework we have addressed two important issues: the power consumption and the time span between shutter activations. Minimum power consumption is a critical issue for many un-cooled applications. SCD has addressed this by introducing the power-save concept accompanied with flexible dilution architecture. The paper will present recent results exhibiting the various advantages. 

One of the limiting factors on the performance of uncooled detectors is their vulnerability to ambient drift. Usually, even minor temperature fluctuations are manifested as high residual non-uniformity (RNU) or fixed pattern noise (FPN). As a result frequent shutter operations must be applied, with the risk of blocking the scenery in critical time frames. The challenge is thus twofold: to increase the time span between shutter corrections and achieve better control of its activation. 

For this purpose BIRD provides two complementing mechanisms: A real-time (frame-by-frame) ambient drift compensation accompanied by an RNU prediction mechanism. The paper will discuss these features in detail and present illustrative system implementations.

Keywords: uncooled FPA, VOx technology, power-save, ambient drift compensation, RNU prediction.

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Uncooled thermo-mechanical detector array with optical readout

This paper reports a novel uncooled infrared FPA whose performance is comparable to the cooled FPAs in terms of noise parameters. FPA consists of bimaterial microcantilever structures that are designed to convert IR radiation energy into mechanical energy. Induced deflection by mechanical energy is detected by means of optical methods that measure sub nanometer thermally induced deflections. Analytical solutions are developed for calculating the figure of merits for the FPA. FEM simulations and the analytical solution agree well. Calculations show that for an FPA, NETD of < 5 mK is achievable in the 812 m band. The design and optimization for the detectors are presented. The mechanical structure of pixels is designed such that it can be possible to form large array size FPAs. Microfabrication of the devices to improve the performance further, employs low cost standard MEMS processes.

Keywords: infrared detectors, optical sensor, bimaterial cantilever

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High-performance IR detectors at SCD present and future

For over 27 years, SCD has been manufacturing and developing a wide range of high performance infrared detectors, designed to operate in either the mid-wave (MWIR) or the long-wave (LWIR) atmospheric windows. These detectors have been integrated successfully into many different types of system including missile seekers, time delay integration scanning systems, hand-held cameras, missile warning systems and many others. SCD's technology for the MWIR wavelength range is based on its well established 2D arrays of InSb photodiodes. The arrays are flip-chip bonded to SCD's analogue or digital signal processors, all of which have been designed in-house. The 2D focal plane array (FPA) detectors have a format of 320256 elements for a 30-m pitch and 480384 or 640512 elements for a 20-m pitch. Typical operating temperatures are around 7785 K. Five years ago SCD began to develop a new generation of MWIR detectors based on the epitaxial growth of antimonide based compound semiconductors (ABCS). This ABCS technology allows band-gap engineering of the detection material which enables higher operating temperatures and multi-spectral detection. This year SCD presented its first prototype FPA from this program, an InAlSb based detector operating at a temperature of 100 K. By the end of this year SCD will introduce the first prototype MWIR detector with a 640512 element format and a pitch of 15 m. For the LWIR wavelength range SCD manufactures both linear Hg1xCdxTe (MCT) detectors with a line of 250 elements and time delay and integration (TDI) detectors with formats of 2884 and 4806. Recently, SCD has demonstrated its first prototype uncooled detector which is based on VOx technology and which has a format of 384288 elements, a pitch of 25 m, and a typical NETD of 50 mK at F/1. In this paper, we describe the present technologies and products of SCD and the future evolution of our detectors for the MWIR and LWIR detection.

Keywords: digital detector, 480384 element detector, 640512 element detector, focal plane array, MCT, IR detector, InSb, InAlSb, superlattice, TDI, DDC.

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Interfaces as design tools for short-period InAs/GaSb type-II superlattices for mid-infrared detectors

The effect of interface anisotropy on the electronic structure of InAs/GaSb type-II superlattices is exploited in the design of thin-layer superlattices for mid-IR detection threshold. The design is based on a theoretical envelope function model that incorporates the change of anion and cation species across InAs/GaSb interfaces, in particular, across the preferred InSb interface. The model predicts that a given threshold can be reached for a range of superlattice periods with InAs and GaSb layers as thin as a few monolayers. Although the oscillator strengths are predicted to be larger for thinner period superlattices, the absorption coefficients are comparable because of the compensating effect of larger band widths. However, larger intervalence band separations for thinner-period samples should lead to longer minority electron Auger lifetimes and higher operating temperatures in p-type SLs. In addition, the hole masses for thinner-period samples are on the order the free-electron mass rather than being effectively infinite for the wider period samples. Therefore, holes should also contribute to photoresponse. A number of superlattices with periods ranging from 50.6 to 21.2 for the 4 m detection threshold were grown by molecular beam epitaxy based on the model design. Low temperature photoluminescence and photoresponse spectra confirmed that the superlattice band gaps remained constant at 330 meV although the period changed by the factor of 2.5. Overall, the present study points to the importance of interfaces as a tool in the design and growth of thin superlattices for mid-IR detectors for room temperature operation. 

Keywords: superlattice, infrared detector, InAs/GaSb, interface, envelope function.

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4x288 readouts and FPAs properties

Analysis of four types 4x288 designed and manufactured readouts is presented. All the readouts have the direct injection input circuit with the circuits incorporated that allows testing procedure of readouts without the photodiodes attached to readout circuits. TDI registers have three delay elements between neighbouring inputs. Some characteristics of 4x288 FPAs with mercury-cadmium-telluride (MCT) arrays are presented too. Analysis have shown that in spite of different constructions of four readout types, different numbers of outputs and external service, rather similar parameters of FPAs have been obtained. Detectivity values measured for all 4x288 FPAs at operation temperature T 78 K with skimming mode included and background temperature Tb 295 K were in the range D @ (1.21.7)x1011 cmHz1/2/W.

Keywords: MCT, readouts, FPAs.

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Competitive technologies of third generation infrared photon detectors

Hitherto, two families of multielement infrared (IR) detectors are used for principal military and civilian infrared applications; one is used for scanning systems (first generation) and the other is used for staring systems (second generation). Third generation systems are being developed nowadays. In the common understanding, third generation IR systems provide enhanced capabilities like larger number of pixels, higher frame rates, better thermal resolution as well as multicolour functionality and other on-chip functions. 

In the paper, issues associated with the development and exploitation of materials used in fabrication of third generation infrared photon detectors are discussed. In this class of detectors two main competitors, HgCdTe photodiodes and quantum well IR photoconductors (QWIPs) are considered. The performance figures of merit of state-of-the-art HgCdTe and QWIP focal plane arrays (FPAs) are similar because the main limitations come from the readout circuits. However, the metallurgical issues of the epitaxial layers such as uniformity and number of defected elements are the serious problems in the case of long wavelength infrared (LWIR) and very LWIR (VLWIR) HgCdTe FPAs. It is predicted that superlattice based InAs/GaInSb system grown on GaSb substrate seems to be an attractive to HgCdTe with good spatial uniformity and an ability to span cutoff wavelength from 3 to 25 m.

Keywords: HgCdTe detectors, QWIPs, type II superlattices, third generation detectors.

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