CfI Managed Programmes

April 2017 to March 2018
30 Nov 2017
STFC National Laboratories

We are pleased to summarise the currently awarded development programmes in the Centre for Instrumentation (CfI).

MP01 Advanced Interconnect Programme (John Lipp)

£150,000 has been awarded to John Lipp to manage a programme to develop interconnect capability for the National Laboratory Programme.

Sensor readout stack

Figure 1: A typical sensor readout stack illustrating the technologies addressed within the programme.
(Credit: STFC)

The objective of this Programme is to provide access to next generation sensors and readout circuitry. This Programme secures access to interconnect technology which enables the assembly of our current and future detector needs.

Our developments focus on the advanced technologies required to combine high pixel packing densities with increasing levels of in-pixel processing. Work within the programme addresses through silicon via (TSVs), wafer level bonding, bump bonding and high density substrates.


MP02 Advanced Optics Programme (David Lee)

£145,000 has been awarded to David Lee to manage a programme to develop advanced optics capability for the National Laboratory Programme.

Scientists and engineers in many areas of STFC need to measure and manipulate visible and infrared light using various technologies. This Programme helps to develop technologies to support both current and future STFC programme in many areas. The two new technology themes we are currently working on are integrated photonics – where many optical components such as lenses are combined in a single block of glass, and adaptive optics for microscopy and astronomy – to enable capture of better images via real-time correction and control of the microscope and telescope optics.



Figure 2: Hollow Waveguide LIDAR, Intra-waveguide feedback modelling, Infrared ULI grating and ULI single waveguide in GLS.
(Credit: STFC)


The first technology theme, integrated photonics technology, will enable the miniaturization of instrumentation for measuring light, and these sensors can be deployed on telescopes, satellites, or in a laboratory. The scientific applications are diverse, ranging from the measurement of polluting gases in the Earth’s atmosphere to use on telescopes to measure the properties of stars and galaxies.

The second technology theme continues to combine STFC adaptive optics expertise from the very large (astronomy) to the very small (super-resolution microscopy). On the microscopy side, the team will concentrate on improving the numerical modelling tools, comparing them to laboratory results and further developing novel wavefront sensing methodologies. In 2013, a common need across a number of STFC science areas was identified: the need for real-time control of optical system. A multi-year project to address this was started; the team will now proceed with the development of the now well specified real-time controller suitable for the control of complex optical systems.

MP03 CMOS Active Pixels

£50,000 has been awarded to Iain Sedgewick to initiate a programme in the development of new CMOS imagers.

CMOS Image Sensors (CIS) have revolutionised modern electronic imaging and are now ubiquitous in our digital cameras and smartphones. This huge growth in consumer technology is also being leveraged for scientific purposes and the STFC CMOS Sensor Design Group has considerable experience in this field. STFC’s core programme covers areas as diverse as Particle Physics, astronomy and Space Science as well as the large facilities which we support that are also increasingly making use of CIS technology.

STFC’s Sensor Design Group already develop sensors for many of these applications and further advances in noise, speed, spatial resolution and radiation hardness are vital to keep all these research areas and facilities at their cutting edge. It is the goal of this Programme to make such advancements and deliver the technology ready to be deployed in the STFC Programme. We will do this by designing and fabricating prototype devices which will demonstrate improved performance in these areas. This work will also engage with the other CfI Programmes and our international collaborators to keep STFC at the forefront of new technical developments. Working with others allows this to be achieved in the most cost-effective manner possible.

In the first year, the focus will be on low noise and high speed developments. Research will also initiate developments for improved radiation hardness and spatial resolution with the goal of building on these areas in future years.

MP04 Data Acquisition Programme (Ian Brawn)

£150,000 has been awarded to Ian Brawn to continue his Programme in the development of advanced data acquisition capability for the National Laboratory Programme.

CAD of a FEM

Figure 4: CAD of a Front End Module (FEM)
(Credit: STFC)

The aim of this Programme is to ensure STFC is ready to meet the challenges posed by scientific experiments, which place ever greater demands on the technologies they use to acquire, transport and process data. Currently, we are running two complementary projects.

Firstly we are developing data links of 40 Gigabit/s and beyond (currently up to 100 Gigabit/s). These links will meet the transport needs of future big-data experiments, such as SKA, which will produce up to 5 Petabit/s of data in Phase 2. They are based on a 10 Gigabit/s link, developed under this programme, which is already deployed on experiments including XFEL and Diamond. Our aim is to become a recognised centre for ultra-high-speed networking in scientific applications.

Secondly we are developing a second generation of Front End Module (FEM-II), which will exploit leading-edge technologies, including the 40 Gigabit/s link described above, to provide a flexible platform for detector interfacing and data processing. Potential applications for FEM-II include experiments on DIAMOND and ISIS, and the readout of very high-performance pixel sensors for Quantum Electron Microscopy. This work builds on the success of the original FEM module, developed under this programme as a generic platform, which is already in use on experiments at XFEL and Diamond, and in the XSPRESS-3 readout system produced by Quantum Detectors.

MP05 Microelectronics Development (Mark Prydderch)

£150,000 has been awarded to Ian Brawn to continue his Programme in the development of advanced microelectronics capability for the National Laboratory Programme.

ASIC pixel design

Figure 5: Detail of an ASIC pixel design
(Credit: STFC)

Microelectronic technologies are constantly developing and shrinking in size, resulting in increased design complexity and changing behaviour of the basic circuit elements. This presents designers with new challenges to overcome, along with increased cost and risk for projects. Similarly, due to this increasing cost and complexity the software tools are also constantly evolving in order to provide the verification tools that offer designers the confidence to commit their designs to silicon.

This CFI Programme will develop experience with the advanced technologies that will be needed to meet the demands of future Instruments, through the design of targeted circuit IP that will be verified in silicon. Full use will be made of the latest advanced software design tools, developing our understanding of these tools and their practical limitations, and disseminating the hands-on experience gained.


MP06 Terahertz Detectors (Peter Huggard)

£60,000 has been awarded to complete the Programme this year.

Silicon die

Figure 6: Photograph of part of silicon die with a range of antennas.
(Credit: STFC)

The Detector System Centre’s CMOS Sensor Design Group and RAL Space’s Millimetre Wave Technology Group are working together to produce a range of state of the art detectors for far infrared radiation. Figure 1. The devices exploit recent advances in nanometre scale CMOS logic circuitry and InGaAs rectifying junctions. They are sensitive to radiation in the frequency range from 50 GHz to 4 THz, wavelengths from 6 mm to 75 µm. Within this STFC Centre for Instrumentation project, we intend to produce and test a series of detectors of both types, examining effects such as transistor size and alloy composition on responsivity. This work will be based on numerical modelling of device physics and electron beam lithography, delivering detectors with state of the art responsivity and noise performances.

MP07 Sensors and Detectors (Paul Seller)

£150,000 has been awarded to Paul Seller to continue his Programme in the development of new sensor materials for the National Laboratory Programme.

X-ray sensors

Figure 7: A 10cm x 10cm array of CdTe X-ray sensors built for a hyperspectral X-ray imaging.
(Credit: STFC)

STFC is engaged in programmes to improve the performance of its facilities as well as being actively engaged in the development of new capabilities overseas. Any new facilities development also requires the production of detector systems and history has shown that constructing these systems from existing detector technology can only ever yield marginal advances in science. In order to achieve step changes in our scientific capabilities we require performance improvements in both our facilities and instrumentation.

One of the critical elements, and a key limiting factor, in all our instrumentation systems is the detector sensing medium itself. Many of the major challenges faced in the field of detector development are requiring us to look beyond traditional silicon-based detectors; an example being the production of systems that are capable of measuring the very high photon fluxes that are produced at next-generation facilities. To make these significant advances, we must invest in the analysis and understanding of these new detector materials. This development programme is focussed on these needs and seeks to deliver a long term programme of work in identifying and characterising new sensing materials, matched to the emerging programme of STFC. These developments are also very relevant to the translational programme of STFC as in industry there is also a need to innovate in sensor technology in markets such as security, military, medical imaging and radiotherapy.

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