Detector development for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Mathematics and Physics

Abstract

In recent years, a wealth of observational data from a range of (highly successful) ground- and satellite-based solar facilities has revealed the perplexing and complex nature of the Sun's atmospheric structure and dynamics. This tremendous complexity is a result of the continuous interaction of the plasma motions with the magnetic field. To understand these interactions, we need to observe, model and interpret solar phenomena over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales, and in particular establish the links between the small-scale processes and the large-scale phenomena.

Solar physics research is very strong in the UK and an area of high priority in the STFC Roadmap. The commissioning of the Rapid Oscillations in Solar Atmosphere imager in 2009 allowed the UK community to expand both its user base of ground-based solar facilities and its exploitation of data from such facilities, which can provide higher spatial and temporal resolution that their satellite-based counterparts. For the future, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), under construction by the US National Solar Observatory with first-light expected in 2019, will be a truly revolutionary facility for ground-based solar physics. It will operate in the optical and near-infrared and be the pre-eminent ground-based solar telescope for the foreseeable future. Key advances in its instrumentation over that currently available include ultra-high spatial (25 km on the solar surface) and temporal (millisecond) resolution, high resolution imaging spectroscopy and coronal magnetometry. The first-light science objectives of the ATST are at the core of UK solar physics research programmes, and it is clearly important for the UK community to have access to the facility to remain competitive.

Current UK-led technology has been highlighted as the best option for detectors meeting the science requirements of the ATST. In this proposal we aim to secure UK participation in the ATST and maximise the science return for the UK community at the time of first-light. This will be achieved by a joint programme, funded by STFC, a consortium of UK universities/research institute and industry (Andor Technology plc), on the development of new state-of-the-art detectors for the ATST, plus a set of software tools that will allow the optimal planning of ATST observations and the processing of the resultant datasets.

The main academic benefit for the UK will be dedicated observing time on the world-leading ATST facility, which our solar physics community will be in an excellent position to exploit. In terms of non-academic benefit, the proposed detector development will have a significant socio-economic impact and is therefore in line with the STFC strategy for economic growth through innovation. It will open new technological markets and provide growth and diversity in existing detector markets.

Planned Impact

1. Public engagement

All Applicants are highly active in Public Understanding of Science (PUS) programmes linked to their research. Examples (which will continue over the grant period) include:

Queen's: talks at annual events (Horizons in Physics for 4th/5th-form students; Physics 6th-Form Open Days; Physics Teachers Conference). Hosts work experience for children, with summer projects funded by Nuffield Foundation. Partnership with W5 Discovery Centre, hosting talks/Q&A sessions and hands-on building games.

Armagh: tours of Observatory and Astropark, talks and special public lectures/exhibitions. Recent PUS projects include construction of the Human Orrery and facilitating an annual Cross-Border Schools Science Conference.

Glasgow: solar physics talks to societies, schools and public including in remote parts of Scotland; school visits with mobile planetarium; tours of observatory; Start-up Science school workshops with RSE and STFC Meet the Expert sessions.

Northumbria: PUS programme with local FE colleges, and involvement in regional/national science festivals (e.g. Newcastle). Recently awarded £1M from HEFCE Catalyst Fund for project to improve physics uptake. Creating Physics and Astrophysics outreach centre for this.

Sheffield: engages in school education programmes during e.g. National Science week, and recently joined University's Expert Guide, used frequently by journalists to source comments on topical news stories.

St Andrews: participates in local science festivals (e.g. Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee) and give schools talks. Lectures at the annual Sutton Trust Summer School and participates in the Annual Space Camp for P6 pupils. Contributes to Sun Trek, a Public Outreach/Educational Website (www.suntrek.org).

Warwick: broad and innovative approach to outreach, spanning formal presentations to interest groups (local astronomical societies), active engagement with media and larger projects (e.g. NESTA). Schools liaison officer supports links with shools and wider community.

2. Knowledge exchange

The large-area sCMOS camera to be developed is to meet the needs of next-generation solar telescopes and the broader astronomy community. However, the solar astronomy market alone is substantial, given the continued investment in existing solar facilities in Europe, US, India and China. There is also currently a demand for large-area CCD cameras in the general astronomy market. It is anticipated that a significant part of this market will migrate towards the next-generation of sCMOS detectors which offer faster speeds and lower noise. Non-solar applications include: near-Earth object detection, speckle interferometry, 'lucky astronomy' and other projects in high-time resolution astrophysics. It is also common in the astronomy marketplace to encounter significant opportunities for large-area cameras. For example, Andor is currently negotiating a contract to deliver 80 large-area CCD units for one project, with delivery over a 4-year period.

Although the unit sales of large-area sCMOS will not be as high as those for the current breed of mid-range sCMOS cameras for microscopy and optical electron microscope instrumentation applications, large-area astronomy detectors are typically priced much higher than mid-range detectors. Hence a lower volume market still yields an appropriate business case. A longer-term aim is to adapt the camera platform for high-speed X-ray detection applications, including protein crystallography and computed 3D X-ray tomography.

Competition currently does not exist, in that large-area fast sCMOS technology has not yet been offered, but that is no guarantee it will not arrive from other parties within the project timescale. The most likely competitor is a US-based company already very active in large-area CCDs. However, Andor is confident of holding a market leading position, given their breath of expertise in both sCMOS and vacuum sensor technology.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We are in the final stages of testing a large area CMOS camera and deliver 9 of those to the Daniel K Inoue Solar Telescope.

The camera development has now been completed. Six science cameras have been delivered to 3 instrument teams. An additional 3 are prepared for delivery.
Exploitation Route The camera product developed is also suitable for other applications (both in the scientific and commercial market).
Sectors Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Other

 
Description The work carried out is expected to generate a commercial product and we anticipate that it will contribute towards economic impact. However, the work is still ongoing.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Andor
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation Andor Technology 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Description EU H2020 programme
Amount € 45,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 06/2015 
End 05/2018
 
Description EU Horizon 2020
Amount € 18,750 (EUR)
Funding ID 739500 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2017 
End 03/2021
 
Description Further supplement to detector development for the DKIST solar telescope
Amount £30,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/L006308/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description Integrating High Resolution Solar Physics
Amount £9,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 824135 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2022
 
Description Not applicable
Amount £150,000 (GBP)
Funding ID R/139338 
Organisation University of Sheffield 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2015 
End 12/2018
 
Description Not applicable
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MOA/STL6324 
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 12/2018
 
Description Not applicable
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PO 1643843 
Organisation University of Glasgow 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 12/2018
 
Description Not applicable
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MOA 27072015 
Organisation University of St Andrews 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 12/2018
 
Description Not applicable
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 4500212929 
Organisation Northumbria University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 05/2018
 
Description Not applicable
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2174 
Organisation Armagh Observatory 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 03/2018
 
Description Supplement to detector development for the DKIST solar telescope
Amount £51,300 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/L006308/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description UK-India Education and Research Initiative
Amount £48,900 (GBP)
Funding ID UGC -UKIERI -2017/18-014 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Title Fourier filtering of high-resolution solar datasets 
Description The next-generation solar telescopes will produce TBs of data each day. It is therefore important to develop automated routines to filter/comb the data for features of particular interest. This tool will perform Fourier filtering on three dimensional datasets to isolate structures, wave modes and dynamics for subsequent scientific study. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Will form the basis of a toolkit designed for the next-generation DKIST telescope. 
URL http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017ApJ...842...59J
 
Description Collaborative Agreement for DKIST Science Support at Queen's University Belfast 
Organisation National Solar Observatory (NSO)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision of a Support Facility at Queen's University Belfast for observing and data reduction with the DKIST solar telescope.
Collaborator Contribution NSO is providing 50% funding for a PDRA for the project, matched by 50% from STFC. NSO is also providing funding for computer equipment for the project, in this case their 50% funding being matched by 50% from Queen's University.
Impact None to date
Start Year 2020
 
Description Collaborative agreement for development of detectors for the DKIST solar telescope. 
Organisation Andor Technology
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Advice on camera requirements to meet science goals, and will test cameras when ready.
Collaborator Contribution Building the cameras.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Collaborative agreement for time on the DKIST (formerly ATST) telescope. 
Organisation Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
Country United States 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution With other UK partners and STFC, will provide funding to purchase cameras for the DKIST.
Collaborator Contribution In return for the cameras, will provide guaranteed time on DKiST to the UK solar community.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2014