16 February 2011 Monolithic single-photon detectors and time-to-digital converters for picoseconds time-of-flight ranging
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We present a novel "smart-pixel" able to measure and record in-pixel the time delay (photon timing) between a START (e.g. given by laser excitation, cell stimulus, or LIDAR flash) and a STOP (e.g. arrival of the first returning photon from the fluorescence decay signal or back reflection from an object). Such smart-pixel relies of a SPAD detector and a Timeto- Digital Converter monolithically designed and manufactured in the same chip. Many pixels can be laid out in a rows by columns architecture, to give birth to expandable 2D imaging arrays for picoseconds-level single-photon timing applications. Distance measurements, by means of direct TOF detection (used in LIDAR systems) provided by each pixel, can open the way to the fabrication of single-chip 3D ranging arrays for scene reconstruction and intelligent object recognition. We report on the design and characterization of prototype circuits, fabricated in a 0.35 μm standard CMOS technology containing complete conversion channels, "smart-pixel" and ancillary electronics with 20 μm active area diameter SPAD detector and related quenching circuitry. With a 100 MHz reference clock, the TDC provides timeresolution of 10 ps, dynamic range of 160 ns and very high conversion linearity.
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Bojan Markovic, Bojan Markovic, Simone Tisa, Simone Tisa, Alberto Tosi, Alberto Tosi, Franco Zappa, Franco Zappa, "Monolithic single-photon detectors and time-to-digital converters for picoseconds time-of-flight ranging", Proc. SPIE 7875, Sensors, Cameras, and Systems for Industrial, Scientific, and Consumer Applications XII, 78750P (16 February 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.872424; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.872424

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