A superconducting focal plane array for ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared astrophysics

Department of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.
Optics Express (Impact Factor: 3.49). 01/2012; 20(2):1503-11. DOI: 10.1364/OE.20.001503
Source: PubMed


Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors, or MKIDs, have proven to be a powerful cryogenic detector technology due to their sensitivity and the ease with which they can be multiplexed into large arrays. A MKID is an energy sensor based on a photon-variable superconducting inductance in a lithographed microresonator, and is capable of functioning as a photon detector across the electromagnetic spectrum as well as a particle detector. Here we describe the first successful effort to create a photon-counting, energy-resolving ultraviolet, optical, and near infrared MKID focal plane array. These new Optical Lumped Element (OLE) MKID arrays have significant advantages over semiconductor detectors like charge coupled devices (CCDs). They can count individual photons with essentially no false counts and determine the energy and arrival time of every photon with good quantum efficiency. Their physical pixel size and maximum count rate is well matched with large telescopes. These capabilities enable powerful new astrophysical instruments usable from the ground and space. MKIDs could eventually supplant semiconductor detectors for most astronomical instrumentation, and will be useful for other disciplines such as quantum optics and biological imaging.

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Available from: Kieran O'Brien, Jan 28, 2015
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    • "ICROWAVE KINETIC Inductance Detectors (MKIDs) [1], [2] are a new type of superconducting technology capable of measuring the arrival times and energies of individual photons. MKIDs work using the principle of the kinetic inductance effect [3]. "
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    ABSTRACT: We have fabricated 2024 pixel microwave kinetic inductance detector (MKID) arrays in the ultraviolet/optical/near-IR (UVOIR) regime that are currently in use in astronomical instruments. In order to make MKIDs desirable for novel instruments, larger arrays with nearly perfect yield need to be fabricated. As array size increases, however, the percent yield often decreases due to frequency collisions in the readout. The per-pixel performance must also be improved, namely the energy resolution. We are investigating ways to reduce frequency collisions and to improve the per pixel performance of our devices through new superconducting material systems and fabrication techniques. There are two main routes that we are currently exploring. First, we are attempting to create more uniform titanium nitride films through the use of atomic layer deposition rather than the more traditional sputtering method. In addition, we are experimenting with completely new material systems for MKIDs, such as platinum silicide.
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    • "Significant improvement could be reached if liquid helium temperatures and thermal isolations of superconducting detectors from the sample (which usually needs to be at physiological temperatures) could be integrated to compact devices while having a suitable spectral bandwidth of the photosensitive material. Example of novel high quantum efficiency superconductive detectors with imaging capabilities, broad spectral sensitivity (UV -near IR) and practically zero noise are presented in [39] [40]. Futuristic possibilities for light detection could include nondestructive detection of the presence of photons, i.e. without absorbing them, by detecting the change of the phase they incur on pre-prepared quantum state of the atom in cavity, as was recently experimentally demonstrated [41]. "
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