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27 July 2016 Sub-electron read noise and millisecond full-frame readout with the near infrared eAPD array SAPHIRA
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In 2007 ESO started a program at SELEX (now LEONARDO) to develop noiseless near infrared HgCdTe electron avalanche photodiode arrays (eAPD)[1][2][3]. This eAPD technology is only way to overcome the limiting CMOS noise barrier of near infrared sensors used for wavefront sensing and fringe tracking. After several development cycles of solid state engineering techniques which can be easily applied to the chosen growth technology of metal organic vapour phase epitaxy (MOVPE), the eAPD arrays have matured and resulted in the SAPHIRA arrays. They have a format of 320x256 pixels with a pitch of 24 μm. They now offer an unmatched combination of sub-electron read noise at millisecond frame readout rates. The first generation of SAPHIRA arrays were only sensitive in H and K-band. With the removal of a wide bandgap buffer layer the arrays are now sensitive from λ=0.8 μm to 2.5 μm with high quantum efficiency over the entire wavelength range. The high temperature anneal applied during the growth process produces material with superb cosmetic quality at an APD gain of over 600. The design of the SAPHIRA ROIC has also been revised and the new ME1000 ROIC has an optimized analogue chain and more flexible readout modes. The clock for the vertical shift register is now under external control. The advantage of this is that correlated-double-sampling and uncorrelated readout in the rolling shutter mode now have a duty cycle of 100% at the maximum frame rate. Furthermore, to reduce the readout noise rows can be read several times before and after row reset. Since the APD gain is sufficiently high that one photon produces many more electrons than the square root of kTC which is the charge uncertainty after reset, signals of one photon per exposure can be easily detected without the need for double correlated sampling. First results obtained with the fringe tracker in GRAVITY and the four SAPHIRA wavefront sensors installed in the CIAO adaptive optics systems of the four 8 meter telescopes of the VLTI have proven the unrivaled performance of the SAPHIRA eAPD technology. A future program is being assembled to develop eAPD arrays having a larger format of 1Kx1K capable of frame rates of 1.2 KHz. There are also good prospects to offer low dark current eAPD technology for large format science focal planes as well.
© (2016) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Gert Finger, Ian Baker, Domingo Alvarez, Christophe Dupuy, Derek Ives, Manfred Meyer, Leander Mehrgan, Jörg Stegmeier, and Harald J. Weller "Sub-electron read noise and millisecond full-frame readout with the near infrared eAPD array SAPHIRA", Proc. SPIE 9909, Adaptive Optics Systems V, 990912 (27 July 2016);


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