[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present an optical 3-D ranging camera for automotive applications that is able to provide a centimeter depth resolution over a 40° x 20° field of view up to 45 m with just 1.5 W of active illumination at 808 nm. The enabling technology we developed is based on a CMOS imager chip of 64 x 32 pixels, each with a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) and three 9-bit digital counters, able to perform lock-in time-of-flight calculation of individual photons emitted by a laser illuminator, reflected by the objects in the scene, and eventually detected by the camera. Due to the SPAD single-photon sensitivity and the smart in-pixel processing, the camera provides state-of-the-art performance at both high frame rates and very low light levels without the need for scanning and with global shutter benefits. Furthermore, the CMOS process is automotive certified.
Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: SPADs (Single-Photon Avalanche Diodes) emerged as the most suitable photodetectors for both singlephoton counting and photon-timing applications. Different complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) devices have been reported in literature, with quite different performance and some excelling in just few of them, but often at different operating conditions. In order to provide proper criteria for performance assessment, we present some figures of merit (FoMs) able to summarize the typical SPAD performance (i.e. photon detection efficiency, dark counting rate, afterpulsing probability, hold-off time, and timing jitter) and to identify a proper metric for SPAD comparisons, when used either as single pixel detectors or in imaging arrays. The ultimate goal is not to define a ranking list of best-in-class detectors, but to quantitatively help the end-user to state the overall performance of different SPADs in either photon-counting, timing, or imaging applications. We review many CMOS SPADs from different research groups and companies, we compute the proposed FoMs for all them and, eventually, we provide an insight on present CMOS SPAD technologies and future trends.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) are large area detectors consisting of an array of single-photon-sensitive microcells, which make SiPMs extremely attractive to substitute the photomultiplier tubes in many applications. We present the design, fabrication, and characterization of analog SiPMs in standard planar 0.35 μm CMOS technology, with about 1 mm × 1 mm total area and different kinds of microcells, based on single-photon avalanche diodes with 30 μm diameter reaching 21.0% fill-factor (FF), 50 μm diameter (FF = 58.3%) or 50 μm square active area with rounded corner of 5 μm radius (FF = 73.7%). We also developed the electrical SPICE model for CMOS SiPMs. Our CMOS SiPMs have 25 V breakdown voltage, in line with most commercial SiPMs and higher gain (8.8 × 106, 13.2 × 106, and 15.0 × 106, respectively). Although dark count rate density is slightly higher than state-of-the-art analog SiPMs, the proposed standard CMOS processing opens the feasibility of integration with active electronics, for switching hot pixels off, drastically reducing the overall dark count rate, or for further on-chip processing.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · Journal of Modern Optics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Optical quantum random number generators (QRNGs) are a special class of physical random data sources, whose randomness is established on elementary quantum optics processes. We present a QRNG based on a CMOS chip which overcomes the limitations of the commonly used optical QRNG and which achieves a random bit generation rate up to 200 Mb/s. The CMOS chip is based on an array of single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) and digital counters. We prove the absolute randomness of the generated random data through statistical test suites and even more stringent correlation and bias tests applied to 32 Gbit streams. The QRNG passes all tests; hence, it proves to be one of the fastest and more reliable CMOS optical QRNGs currently available.
No preview · Article · May 2015 · IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Silicon Photomultipliers (SiPMs) are emerging single photon detectors used in many applications requiring large active area, photon-number resolving capability and immunity to magnetic fields. We present three families of analog SiPM fabricated in a reliable and cost-effective fully standard planar CMOS technology with a total photosensitive area of 1×1 mm2. These three families have different active areas with fill-factors (21%, 58.3%, 73.7%) comparable to those of commercial SiPM, which are developed in vertical (current flow) custom technologies. The peak photon detection efficiency in the near-UV tops at 38% (fill-factor included) comparable to commercial custom-process ones and dark count rate density is just a little higher than the best-in-class commercial analog SiPMs. Thanks to the CMOS processing, these new SiPMs can be integrated together with active components and electronics both within the microcell and on-chip, in order to act at the microcell level or to perform global pre-processing. We also report CMOS digital SiPMs in the same standard CMOS technology, based on microcells with digitalized processing, all integrated on-chip. This CMOS digital SiPMs has four 32×1 cells (128 microcells), each consisting of SPAD, active quenching circuit with adjustable dead time, digital control (to switch off noisy SPADs and readout position of detected photons), and fast trigger output signal. The achieved 20% fill-factor is still very good.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are the most advanced technologies to fight road accidents. Within ADAS, an important role is played by radar- and lidar-based sensors, which are mostly employed for collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control. Nonetheless, they have a narrow field-of-view and a limited ability to detect and differentiate objects. Standard camera-based technologies (e.g. stereovision) could balance these weaknesses, but they are currently not able to fulfill all automotive requirements (distance range, accuracy, acquisition speed, and frame-rate). To this purpose, we developed an automotive-oriented CMOS single-photon camera for optical 3D ranging based on indirect time-of-flight (iTOF) measurements. Imagers based on Single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) arrays offer higher sensitivity with respect to CCD/CMOS rangefinders, have inherent better time resolution, higher accuracy and better linearity. Moreover, iTOF requires neither high bandwidth electronics nor short-pulsed lasers, hence allowing the development of cost-effective systems. The CMOS SPAD sensor is based on 64 × 32 pixels, each able to process both 2D intensity-data and 3D depth-ranging information, with background suppression. Pixel-level memories allow fully parallel imaging and prevents motion artefacts (skew, wobble, motion blur) and partial exposure effects, which otherwise would hinder the detection of fast moving objects. The camera is housed in an aluminum case supporting a 12 mm F/1.4 C-mount imaging lens, with a 40°×20° field-of-view. The whole system is very rugged and compact and a perfect solution for vehicle’s cockpit, with dimensions of 80 mm × 45 mm × 70 mm, and less that 1 W consumption. To provide the required optical power (1.5 W, eye safe) and to allow fast (up to 25 MHz) modulation of the active illumination, we developed a modular laser source, based on five laser driver cards, with three 808 nm lasers each. We present the full characterization of the 3D automotive system, operated both at night and during daytime, in both indoor and outdoor, in real traffic, scenario. The achieved long-range (up to 45m), high dynamic-range (118 dB), highspeed (over 200 fps) 3D depth measurement, and high precision (better than 90 cm at 45 m), highlight the excellent performance of this CMOS SPAD camera for automotive applications.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present a high performance Time-to-Digital Converter (TDC) card that provides 10 ps timing resolution and 20 ps (rms) timing precision with a programmable full-scale-range from 160 ns to 10 μs. Differential Non-Linearity (DNL) is better than 1.3% LSB (rms) and Integral Non-Linearity (INL) is 5 ps rms. Thanks to the low power consumption (400 mW) and the compact size (78 mm x 28 mm x 10 mm), this card is the building block for developing compact multichannel time-resolved instrumentation for Time-Correlated Single-Photon Counting (TCSPC). The TDC-card outputs the time measurement results together with the rates of START and STOP signals and the number of valid TDC conversions. These additional information are needed by many TCSPC-based applications, such as: Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), Time-of-Flight (TOF) ranging measurements, time-resolved Positron Emission Tomography (PET), single-molecule spectroscopy, Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), Diffuse Optical Tomography (DOT), Optical Time-Domain Reflectometry (OTDR), quantum optics, etc.
No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An array of 32x32 Single-Photon Avalanche-Diodes (SPADs) and Time-to-Digital Converters (TDCs) has been fabricated in a 0.35 μm automotive-certified CMOS technology. The overall dimension of the chip is 9x9 mm2. Each pixel is able to detect photons in the 300 nm - 900 nm wavelength range with a fill-factor of 3.14% and either to count them or to time stamp their arrival time. In photon-counting mode an in-pixel 6-bit counter provides photon-numberresolved intensity movies at 100 kfps, whereas in photon-timing mode the 10-bit in-pixel TDC provides time-resolved maps (Time-Correlated Single-Photon Counting measurements) or 3D depth-resolved (through direct time-of-flight technique) images and movies, with 312 ps resolution. The photodetector is a 30 μm diameter SPAD with low Dark Count Rate (120 cps at room temperature, 3% hot-pixels) and 55% peak Photon Detection Efficiency (PDE) at 450 nm. The TDC has a 6-bit counter and a 4-bit fine interpolator, based on a Delay Locked Loop (DLL) line, which makes the TDC insensitive to process, voltage, and temperature drifts. The implemented sliding-scale technique improves linearity, giving 2% LSB DNL and 10% LSB INL. The single-shot precision is 260 ps rms, comprising SPAD, TDC and driving board jitter. Both optical and electrical crosstalk among SPADs and TDCs are negligible. 2D fast movies and 3D reconstructions with centimeter resolution are reported.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Quantitative confocal fluorescence microscopy imaging without scanning is developed for the study of fast dynamical processes. The method relies on the use of massively parallel Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (mpFCS). Simultaneous excitation of fluorescent molecules across the specimen is achieved by passing a single laser beam through a Diffractive Optical Element (DOE) to generate a quadratic illumination matrix of 32×32 light sources. Fluorescence from 1024 illuminated spots is detected in a confocal arrangement by a matching matrix detector consisting of the same number of single-photon avalanche photodiodes (SPADs). Software was developed for data acquisition and fast autoand cross-correlation analysis by parallel signal processing using a Graphic Processing Unit (GPU). Instrumental performance was assessed using a conventional single-beam FCS instrument as a reference. Versatility of the approach for application in biomedical research was evaluated using ex vivo salivary glands from Drosophila third instar larvae expressing a fluorescently-tagged transcription factor Sex Combs Reduced (Scr) and live PC12 cells stably expressing the fluorescently tagged mu-opioid receptor (MOPeGFP). We show that quantitative mapping of local concentration and mobility of transcription factor molecules across the specimen can be achieved using this approach, which paves the way for future quantitative characterization of dynamical reaction-diffusion landscapes across live cells/tissue with a submillisecond temporal resolution (presently 21 μs/frame) and single-molecule sensitivity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We report on the design and characterization of a multipurpose 64x32CMOS single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) array. The chip is fabricated in a high-voltage 0.35-μm CMOS technology and consists of 2048 pixels, each combining a very low noise (100 cps at 5-V excess bias) 30-μm SPAD, a prompt avalanche sensing circuit, and digital processing electronics. The array not only delivers two-dimensional intensity information through photon counting in either free-running (down to 10-μs integration time) or time-gated mode, but can also perform smart light demodulation with in-pixel background suppression. The latter feature enables phase-resolved imaging for extracting either three-dimensional depth-resolved images or decay lifetime maps, by measuring the phase shift between a modulated excitation light and the reflected photons. Pixel-level memories enable fully parallel processing and global-shutter readout, preventing motion artifacts (e.g., skew, wobble, motion blur) and partial exposure effects. The array is able to acquire very fast optical events at high frame-rate (up to 100 000 fps) and at single-photon level. Low-noise SPADs ensure high dynamic range (up to 110 dB at 100 fps) with peak photon detection efficiency of almost 50% at 410 nm. The SPAD imager provides different operating modes, thus, enabling both time-domain applications, like fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, as well as frequency-domain FLIM and lock-in 3-D ranging for automotive vision and lidar.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) is
commonly used to observe molecules of biological relevance in
their native environment, the live cell, and study their spatial
distribution and interactions. CLSM can be easily extended
to measure the lifetime of the excited state of fluorescent
molecules and their diffusion properties, with Fluorescence Life7
time Imaging Microscopy (FLIM) and Fluorescence Correlation
Spectroscopy (FCS), in order to provide additional information
about the cell biochemistry. However, these physical parameters
cannot be measured simultaneously using conventional CLSM at
very high scanning speeds due to photodamage and saturation
of the fluorescence signal of the excited molecules or induced
phototoxicity to the observed biosystems. To overcome these
limitations, we developed a new camera that consists of 1024
Single-Photon Avalanche Diodes (SPADs) which is optimized
for multifocal microscopy, FLIM and FCS. We show proof17
of-principle measurements of fluorescence intensity distribution
and lifetime of the enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein (eGFP)
expressed in live cells and measurement of Quantum Dots (QD)
diffusion in solution by FCS using the same detector.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present a Time-to-Digital Converter (TDC) card with a compact form factor, suitable for multichannel timing instruments or for integration into more complex systems. The TDC Card provides 10 ps timing resolution over the whole measurement range, which is selectable from 160 ns up to 10 μs, reaching 21 ps rms precision, 1.25% LSB rms differential nonlinearity, up to 3 Mconversion/s with 400 mW power consumption. The I/O edge card connector provides timing data readout through either a parallel bus or a 100 MHz serial interface and further measurement information like input signal rate and valid conversion rate (typically useful for time-correlated single-photon counting application) through an independent serial link.
No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Review of Scientific Instruments
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present a CMOS imager consisting of 32×32 smart pixels, each one able to detect single photons in the 300-900 nm wavelength range and to perform both photon-counting and photon-timing operations on very fast optical events with faint intensities. In photon-counting mode, the imager provides photon-number (i.e, intensity) resolved movies of the scene under observation, up to 100 000 frames/s. In photon-timing, the imager provides photon arrival times with 312 ps resolution. The result are videos with either time-resolved (e.g., fluorescence) maps of a sample, or 3-D depth-resolved maps of a target scene. The imager is fabricated in a cost-effective 0.35-μm CMOS technology, automotive certified. Each pixel consists of a single-photon avalanche diode with 30 μm photoactive diameter, coupled to an in-pixel 10-bit time-to-digital converter with 320-ns full-scale range, an INL of 10% LSB and a DNL of 2% LSB. The chip operates in global shutter mode, with full frame times down to 10 μs and just 1-ns conversion time. The reconfigurable imager design enables a broad set of applications, like time-resolved spectroscopy, fluorescence lifetime imaging, diffusive optical tomography, molecular imaging, time-of-flight 3-D ranging and atmospheric layer sensing through LIDAR.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present our latest results concerning CMOS Single-Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) arrays for high-throughput parallel single-photon counting. We exploited a high-voltage 0.35 μm CMOS technology in order to develop low-noise CMOS SPADs. The Dark Count Rate is 30 cps at room temperature for 30 μm devices, increases to 2 kcps for 100 μm SPADs and just to 100 kcps for 500 μm ones. Afterpulsing is less than 1% for hold-off time longer than 50 ns, thus allowing to reach high count rates. Photon Detection Efficiency is > 50% at 420 nm, > 40% below 500 nm and is still 5% at 850 nm. Timing jitter is less than 100 ps (FWHM) in SPADs with active area diameter up to 50 μm.
We developed CMOS SPAD imagers with 150 μm pixel pitch and 30 μm SPADs. A 64×32 SPAD array is based on pixels including three 9-bit counters for smart phase-resolved photon counting up to 100 kfps. A 32x32 SPAD array includes 1024 10-bit Time-to-Digital Converters (TDC) with 300 ps resolution and 450 ps single-shot precision, for 3D ranging and FLIM. We developed also linear arrays with up to 60 pixels (with 100 μm SPAD, 150 μm pitch and in-pixel 250 ps TDC) for time-resolved parallel spectroscopy with high fill factor.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The double-slit experiment strikingly demonstrates the wave-particle duality of quantum objects. In this famous experiment, particles pass one-by-one through a pair of slits and are detected on a distant screen. A distinct wave-like pattern emerges after many discrete particle impacts as if each particle is passing through both slits and interfering with itself. Here we present a temporally- and spatially-resolved measurement of the double-slit interference pattern using single photons. We send single photons through a birefringent double-slit apparatus and use a linear array of single-photon detectors to observe the developing interference pattern. The analysis of the buildup allows us to compare quantum mechanics and the corpuscular model, which aims to explain the mystery of single-particle interference. Finally, we send one photon from an entangled pair through our double-slit setup and show the dependence of the resulting interference pattern on the twin photon's measured state. Our results provide new insight into the dynamics of the buildup process in the double-slit experiment, and can be used as a valuable resource in quantum information applications.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many demanding applications require single-photon detectors with very large active area, very low noise, high detection efficiency, and precise time response. Single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) provide all the advantages of solid-state devices, but in many applications other single-photon detectors, like photomultiplier tubes, have been preferred so far due to their larger active area. We developed silicon SPADs with active area diameters as large as 500 μm in a fully standard CMOS process. The 500 μm SPAD exhibits 55% peak photon detection efficiency at 420 nm, 8 kcps of dark counting rate at 0°C, and high uniformity of the sensitivity in the active area. These devices can be used with on-chip integrated quenching circuitry, which reduces the afterpulsing probability, or with external circuits to achieve even better photon-timing performances, as good as 92 ps FWHM for a 100 μm diameter SPAD. Owing to the state-of-the-art performance, not only compared to CMOS SPADs but also SPADs developed in custom technologies, very high uniformity and low crosstalk probability, these CMOS SPADs can be successfully employed in detector arrays and single-chip imagers for single-photon counting and timing applications.
No preview · Article · Dec 2013 · Journal of Modern Optics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present a compact time-resolved spectrometer suitable for optical spectroscopy from 400 nm to 1 μm wavelengths.
The detector consists of a monolithic array of 16 high-precision Time-to-Digital Converters (TDC) and Single-Photon
Avalanche Diodes (SPAD). The instrument has 10 ps resolution and reaches 70 ps (FWHM) timing precision over a 160
ns full-scale range with a Differential Non-Linearity (DNL) better than 1.5 % LSB. The core of the spectrometer is the
application-specific integrated chip composed of 16 pixels with 250 μm pitch, containing a 20 μm diameter SPAD and
an independent TDC each, fabricated in a 0.35 μm CMOS technology. In front of this array a monochromator is used to
focus different wavelengths into different pixels. The spectrometer has been used for fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy:
5 nm spectral resolution over an 80 nm bandwidth is achieved. Lifetime spectroscopy of Nile blue is demonstrated.