Development of Scientific CMOS imagers for STFC Applications

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Physical Sciences

Abstract

The e2v Centre for Electronic Imaging as a collaboration between e2v and the Open University to provide training for young scientists and engineers in the field of imaging detectors for science experiments. e2v have agreed to fund up to a rolling 12 PhD CASE students as part of this collaboration, which represents one of the largest concentrations of industrially-sponsored students under the CASE scheme. At a meeting with the PPARC executive in 2004 (involving Ian Halliday and Richard Wade), the research council agreed to support this ambitious plan for PhD student training. This single application is one of 3 CASE applications proposed into the 2009 round, exploring different aspects of imaging semiconductor device R&D of relevance to STFC science. E2v is a world-leader in the design, manufacture and test of CCD detectors into the world's scientific community, and is particularly strong in the space sector. In recent years, however, new CMOS Active Pixel Sensors (APS) have been developed for scientific applications. e2v is now undertaking significant R&D at both of its design houses at Chelmsford and Grenoble, developing the technology of CMOS imagers to position themselves in the market place in a similar way to that for CCDs. In particular, the CMOS imagers have development goals of : - low noise (down to 2-3 electrons rms) -back-illumination, for enhanced detection efficiency, particularly opening up detection windows for UV and soft X-rays - Large area, with multi-Mpixels, having a variety of pixel sizes - A high degree of parallellism to achieve high frame rates - high levels of system integration, including clock generation and ADC converters on-chip. This application will be for our third PhD student to work on aspects of scientific CMOS imagers (Greig funded by EPSRC, PhD awarded 2008, and Dryer funded by STFC who will be in his 3rd year by the time the studentship starts). In addition, within the group we have a new 3-year PDRA funded jointly by e2v and the University who is working on CMOS imagers, which helps to ensure a vibrant research activity in this field, and who will help contribute to supervision of the student. The student will perform detailed evaluation of new CMOS sensors from e2v,with particular emphasis on testing low noise, and back illumination variants for space science experiments. The group has a specific interest in the use of un-coated back-thinned imagers for the readout of the grating spectrometer on the International X-ray observatory (IXO) mission concept, where the CMOS imagers may ultimately dispalce the more mature CCD technology which is currently baselined. The student will therefore perform characterisation of such sensors using in-house soft X-ray facilities, and at synchrotron beamlines. The devices will also be characterised using optical stimulation, including PSF testing in our optical beamline. In addition, space radiation damage studies will be performed. This work will be of benefit to other space missions, for example Solar Orbiter, planetary and lunar missions, plus earth observation instrumentation. During the course of the work, once the student becomes familiar with the key issues, e2v will design CMOS test sructures (which may be small imagers, e.g. 10x10 pixels), to evaluate device parameters of interest to the PhD activity, and will then get these test structures manufactured. This activity will piggy-back on other funded CMOS work from e2v. One of the key activities of the studentship will be the definition, test and evaluation of these test structures, toward providing feedback into the design process. By the end of the studentship we would anticipate that a much greater understanding is obtained into the use and limitations of CMOS technology for future space missions, and also their use in terrestrial high-performance scientific imaging applications.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The "brighter-fatter" effect has been investigated when using CCDs for precision astronomy - where the shape of an object being measured changes depending upon the size/intensity of the object. This particularly affects Astronomy misssions such as Gaia, Euclid and LSST, where precision measurements of the PSF are required.
Exploitation Route The PhD student is about to take up a post-doc position working on LSST which will carry the work forward.
Sectors Electronics

 
Description This work has supported UK industry (in this instance e2v technologies) toward a deeper understanding of the use of their sensors in precision astronomy. This work has/may have contributed to the UK industry winning significant contract work.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description C3D2 for AlSat-Nano
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Open University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 02/2016
 
Description ESA NPI - JPG
Amount € 60,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Space Agency 
Department European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC)
Sector Public
Country Netherlands
Start 01/2014 
End 01/2017
 
Description ESA NPI - RDH
Amount € 60,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Space Agency 
Sector Public
Country France
Start 12/2010 
End 12/2013
 
Description OU Enterprise Competition - Cubesat
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Open University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 11/2015
 
Description ST/K001221/1 CubeSat Mission Concept Studies
Amount £27,423 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/K001221/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2012 
End 06/2012
 
Description Clyde Space Ltd / OU Collaboration 
Organisation Clyde Space
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Hiring of consultant services In kind business development support In kind hardware/software support for Nanobed project
Collaborator Contribution Providing consultancy services In kind business development support
Impact Understanding on collaborative opportunities for Cubesat imaging platforms Support for Nanobed project
Start Year 2011
 
Description Scientific Instruments/OU Framework Collaboration Agreement 
Organisation Scientific Instruments
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Contributions cover many aspects of financial, in-kind, staff and knowledge exchange.
Collaborator Contribution Contributions cover many aspects of financial, in-kind, staff and knowledge exchange.
Impact Development of research and commercial technologies in imaging.
Start Year 2013
 
Description e2v/OU Collaboration 
Organisation High Performance Imaging Solutions; E2V Technologies
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaborative Research Contract Research PhD Training Employee Training Knowledge Exchange Workshops Patents
Collaborator Contribution Sponsorship In-kind contributions (staff) In-kind contributions (devices) Knowledge Exchange
Impact CASE Studentships IPS Funding Collaborative Partners European Space Agency Funding Collaborative Partners Patents
 
Description Space instrumentation development at the Open University magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This glossy, high quality magazine showcases the expertise and capabilities of researchers at the Open University and their space instrumentation development activities.

Over 500 have been distributed since publication to a mixture of industry, academic and schools and general public audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
 
Description UK Space Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Exhibition on Open University Space Instrumentation projects (inc. Gaia, Rosetta, JUICE, Euclid, UKube-1 & ExoMars TGO). Industry/govt./academic delegates (593 on day 1, 1557 on day 2) & 250 general public/school children.

Significant increase in awareness of OU Space Instrumentation activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.intellectuk.org/uk-space-2013-home
 
Description UKSA Cubesat Forum - committee 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact The forum helps to engage with the UK Cubesat community and advise the UKSA on the direction of the National Cubesat Programme.

Organaisation of the 2014 UK CubeSat Workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014
URL http://www.cubesatforum.org.uk/
 
Description UKSA Cubesat Workshop - organising committee 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Workshop Facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Showcased the C3D Cubesat payload to UK industry/academics

Dr. Ross Burgon has joined the Committee of the UKSA Cubesat Forum (http://www.cubesatforum.org.uk/)
Dr. Ross Burgon is on the Review Panel for the UKSA UKube-1 Lessons Learned Review
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description UKube in the Classroom 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A team of our dedicate PhD students have been visiting local schools to deliver an outreach workshop about UKube-1, reaching over one thousand pupils and teachers. Following a short talk on the mission, pupils were invite to take image with the C3D replica cameras and answer questions on a worksheets about what they were seeing and abut the mission. Our experiment with C3D is to look at radiation damage to the camera whilst in orbit, so the pupils were able to see how radiation damage would effect their own images using special software simulations. The workshops ended with some question and answer sessions, allowing the pupils to ask all their burning questions about the mission and space in general.

ST/J500136/1
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013