The X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) is the high resolution X-ray spectrometer of the ESA Athena X-ray observatory. Over a field of view of 5’ equivalent diameter, it will deliver X-ray spectra from 0.2 to 12 keV with a spectral resolution of 2.5 eV up to 7 keV on ∼ 5” pixels. The X-IFU is based on a large format array of super-conducting molybdenum-gold Transition Edge Sensors cooled at ∼ 90 mK, each coupled with an absorber made of gold and bismuth with a pitch of 249 μm. A cryogenic anti-coincidence detector located underneath the prime TES array enables the non X-ray background to be reduced. A bath temperature of ∼ 50 mK is obtained by a series of mechanical coolers combining 15K Pulse Tubes, 4K and 2K Joule-Thomson coolers which pre-cool a sub Kelvin cooler made of a 3He sorption cooler coupled with an Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator. Frequency domain multiplexing enables to read out 40 pixels in one single channel. A photon interacting with an absorber leads to a current pulse, amplified by the readout electronics and whose shape is reconstructed on board to recover its energy with high accuracy. The defocusing capability offered by the Athena movable mirror assembly enables the X-IFU to observe the brightest X-ray sources of the sky (up to Crab-like intensities) by spreading the telescope point spread function over hundreds of pixels. Thus the X-IFU delivers low pile-up, high throughput (< 50%), and typically 10 eV spectral resolution at 1 Crab intensities, i.e. a factor of 10 or more better than Silicon based X-ray detectors. In this paper, the current X-IFU baseline is presented, together with an assessment of its anticipated performance in terms of spectral resolution, background, and count rate capability. The X-IFU baseline configuration will be subject to a preliminary requirement review that is scheduled at the end of 2018.
The “Service des Basses Températures” (SBT) of CEA Grenoble has been involved in space cryogenics for over 20 years now. In fact a dedicated laboratory was created within SBT to carry out these developments, the “Cryocoolers and Space Cryogenics” group, which comprises about 20 persons as of today. Various cryocoolers have been developed in the past and our fields of activity focus now on four main technologies: sorption coolers, multistage pulse tubes, adiabatic demagnetization refrigerators (ADR), and cryogenic loop heat pipes. In addition work on two new concepts for ground based dilution refrigerators is also ongoing. Finally developments on various key technologies such as the heat switches, the suspension or structural systems are also carried out. These developments are mainly funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) or by the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). For most of these systems the common feature is the absence of any moving parts or any friction, which guarantees a very good reliability and make them very good candidates for space borne instruments requiring cryogenic temperatures. In this paper we give an overview of these developments with a particular focus on the sub Kelvin coolers. Based on the HERSCHEL heritage for which we developed the flight sorption coolers, we are now proposing an original concept featuring the association of a 300 mK sorption unit with a miniature adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator. This combination will allow to provide temperature as low as 50 mK with a system weighting less than 5 kg. This development may have direct application for the XEUS and SPICA missions.
The X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) on board the Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics (Athena) will provide spatially resolved high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy from 0.2 to 12 keV, with ~ 5" pixels over a field of view of 5 arc minute equivalent diameter and a spectral resolution of 2.5 eV up to 7 keV. In this paper, we first review the core scientific objectives of Athena, driving the main performance parameters of the X-IFU, namely the spectral resolution, the field of view, the effective area, the count rate capabilities, the instrumental background. We also illustrate the breakthrough potential of the X-IFU for some observatory science goals. Then we brie y describe the X-IFU design as defined at the time of the mission consolidation review concluded in May 2016, and report on its predicted performance. Finally, we discuss some options to improve the instrument performance while not increasing its complexity and resource demands (e.g. count rate capability, spectral resolution).
The ESA Athena mission will implement 2 instruments to study the hot and energetic universe. The X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) will provide spatially resolved high resolution spectroscopy. This high energy resolution of 2.5 eV at 7 keV could be achieved thanks to TES (Transition Edge Sensor) detectors that need to be cooled to very low temperature. To obtain the required 50 mK temperature level, a careful design of the cryostat and of the cooling chain including different technologies in cascade is needed. The preliminary cryogenic architecture of the X-IFU instrument that fulfils the TES detector thermal requirements is described. In particular, the thermal design of the detector focal plane assembly (FPA), that uses three temperature stages (from 2 K to 50 mK) to limit the thermal loads on the lowest temperature stage, is described. The baseline cooling chain is based on European and Japanese mechanical coolers (Stirling, Pulse tube and Joule Thomson coolers) that precool a sub Kelvin cooler made of a 3He sorption cooler coupled with a small ADR (Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator). Preliminary thermal budgets of the X-IFU cryostat are presented and discussed regarding cooling chain performances.
The hot and energetic universe has been selected by ESA as the science theme for the L2 mission with a planned launch in 2028. The Athena mission is one the potential mission concept for the next X-rays generation satellite. One of the instruments of this mission is the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) which provides spatially resolved high resolution spectroscopy. This low temperature instrument requires high detector sensitivity that can only be achieved using 50 mK cooling. To obtain this temperature level, a careful design of the cryostat and of the cooling chain comprising different stages in cascade is needed. CEA has undertaken development in various areas to contribute to this cryochain including pulse tube coolers and sub-Kelvin coolers. This paper will describe the status of our different cooler developments. High temperature two stage pulse tube can be used for thermal shields cooling, 15 K pulse tube cooler for 2 K JT precooling and 4 K pulse tube cooler for a potential direct cooling of the sub-kelvin cooler. The 50 mK temperature is achieved using a sub-kelvin cooler comprising an adsorption cooler linked to an ADR stage. This elegant solution gives way to a light, compact and reliable cooler which has been validated in the SPICA/SAFARI project. Modified solutions are also under study to accommodate alternative design.
The SAFARI instrument is a far infrared imaging spectrometer that is a core instrument of the SPICA mission. Thanks to the large (3 meter) SPICA cold telescope, the ultra sensitive detectors and a powerful Fourier Transform Spectrometer, this instrument will give access to the faintest light never observed in the 34 μm - 210 μm bandwidth with a high spectral resolution. To achieve this goal, TES detectors, that need to be cooled at a temperature as low as 50 mK, have been chosen. The thermal architecture of the SAFARI focal plane unit (FPU) which fulfils the TES detector thermal requirements is presented. In particular, an original 50 mK cooler concept based on a sorption cooler in series with an adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator will be used. The thermal design of the detector focal plane array (FPA) that uses three temperature stages to limit the loads on the lowest temperature stage, will be also described. The current SAFARI thermal budget estimations are presented and discussed regarding the limited SPICA allocations. Finally, preliminary thermal sensitivity analysis dealing with thermal stability requirements is presented.
Cryogenic detectors for astrophysics depend on cryocoolers capable of achieving temperatures below ~ 100 mK. In order to provide continuous cooling at 50 mK for space or laboratory applications, we are designing a miniature adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator (MADR) anchored at a reservoir at 5 K. Continuous cooling is obtained
by the use of several paramagnetic pills placed in series with heat switches. All operations are fully electronic and this technology can be adapted fairly easily for a wide range of temperatures and cooling powers. We are focusing on reducing the size and mass of the cooler. For that purpose we have developed and tested magnetoresistive heat switches based on single crystals of tungsten. Several superconducting magnets are required for this cooler and we have designed and manufactured compact magnets. A special focus has been put on the reduction of parasitic magnetic fields in the cold
stage, while minimizing the mass of the shields. A prototype
continuous MADR, using magnetoresistive heat switches, small paramagnetic pills and compact magnets has been tested. A
design of MADR that will provide ~ 5 uW of continuous cooling down to 50 mK is described.