Profiling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is important for understanding the natural carbon cycle on Earth and its influence on global warming and climate change. Differential absorption lidar is a powerful remote sensing technique used for profiling and monitoring atmospheric constituents. Recently there has been an interest to apply this technique, at the 2 μm wavelength, for investigating atmospheric CO2. This drives the need for high quality detectors at this wavelength. Although 2 μm detectors are commercially available, the quest for a better detector is still on. The detector performance, regarding quantum efficiency, gain and associated noise, affects the DIAL signal-to-noise ratio and background signal, thereby influencing the instrument sensitivity and dynamic range. Detectors based on the III-V based compound materials shows a strong potential for such application.
In this paper the detector requirements for a long range CO2 DIAL profiles will be discussed. These requirements were compared to newly developed III-V compound infrared detectors. The performance of ternary InGaSb pn junction devices will be presented using different substrates, as well as quaternary InGaAsSb npn structure. The performance study was based on experimental characterization of the devices dark current, spectral response, gain and noise. The final results are compared to the current state-of-the-art InGaAs technology. Npn phototransistor structure showed the best performance, regarding the internal gain and therefore the device signal-to-noise ratio. 2-μm detectivity as high as 3.9x1011 cmHz1/2/W was obtained at a temperature of -20°C and 4 V bias voltage. This corresponds to a responsivity of 2650 A/W with about 60% quantum efficiency.