CfI Responsive Mode projects

April 2016 to March 2017
14 Oct 2016
STFC National Laboratories

We are pleased to summarise the currently awarded Responsive Mode projects in the Centre for Instrumentation.

A Roadmap for science-grade Monolithic Active Pixel Sensors (MAPS) for STFC

£22,500 has been awarded to Iain Sedgwick, RAL (TD)

CMOS Image Sensors are at the heart of most imagers in the consumer and professional world. They are also increasingly becoming the technology of choice for scientific projects. STFC has been at the lead of this revolution and this programme is aiming at establishing a firm roadmap of future development in the imaging arena.

A Muonic X-ray Spectrometer

£32,400 has been awarded to Matt Wilson, RAL (TD)

Negative muons are captured in the electron orbital shells of atoms. The muon falls to lower energy orbitals, emitting X-rays with unique energies dependent on the element and shell. As muons have x200 the mass of electrons the X-rays have x200 higher energy which means it is possible to detector characteristic X-ray emissions from low Z elements inside of bulk samples. Technology Department and ISIS will demonstrate a 6400 element spectrometer to make high rate elemental analysis of bulk samples and to image the elements in a sample from muonic X-rays for the first time.

Precision manipulation and placement of laser optics

£17,300 has been awarded to Ewan Fitzsimons, UKATC (TD)

LISA Pathfinder optical system

Figure 1: Flight model of the LISA Pathfinder optical system.
(Credit: Airbus DS)

Observing gravitational waves from space will revolutionise our understanding of super-massive black holes and their formation and provide a new window with which to observe the early universe. As part of their Cosmic Vision program, and following on from the successful launch of the LISA Pathfinder technology demonstrator, the European Space Agency has selected a Gravitational Wave Observatory as the third ‘Large Class’ mission in the program.

In order to observe gravitational waves from sources like super-massive black holes, the observatory must measure minute variations in the separation of distant spacecraft with a required precision of order 10-11 m over distances of several millions of km. Only an extremely precise laser metrology system can make this measurement. One of the key technological hurdles which must be overcome in developing such a system is the alignment of the laser metrology system. This activity will investigate the feasibility of a robotic alignment and positioning system which will be able to manufacture the hugely complex optical systems required safely and quickly.

A Neutron shielding development

£25,000 has been awarded to Simon Canfer, RAL (TD)

Neutron shielding materials are required to produce parts for the next generation of instruments for the ISIS neutron source at STFC-RAL. To shield the detectors from stray neutrons, a great deal of effort is applied to ensuring that they only see the neutrons of interest, i.e. those from the sample under test. These instruments employ large quantities of boron carbide shielding such as our dense boron carbide epoxy “dough”. In 2016-17 we would like to study formulations with different epoxy resins and hardeners that could be made in bulk in advance and stored, perhaps at low temperatures. The key advantage would be to reduce the time spent cleaning mixing machinery and hence reduce staff costs.

3D-printing offers promise for making shielding materials and we would pursue two routes; filamentary and paste. Previous work has formulated a paste material. This year we propose to develop filament formulations using a custom filament extruder.

An energy-resolved imaging camera for laser-generated x-ray sources

£21,200 has been awarded to Daniel Symes, RAL (CLF)

The extreme intensity Gemini laser can be focused in gas targets to create plasma structures moving close to the speed of light, trapping and accelerating electron bunches to relativistic energies in about one centimetre. As the electrons oscillate in the plasma they emit bright x-rays ideally suited for high resolution absorption and phase contrast imaging of samples for biological and material science. In order to optimise such an x-ray source, developing a diagnostic capable of producing energy-resolved images is vital. In this project we will develop an x-ray camera that can produce energy-resolved images of a laser-based x-ray source. These developments are of vital importance to advance plasma accelerator technology for both fundamental science experiments and the application of high power lasers to solve wider societal challenges.

OverMOS: Over depleted CMOS Monolithic Active Pixel Sensors (MAPS) for very high radiation hardness and speed

£11,500 has been awarded to Iain Sedgwick, RAL (TD)

Today CMOS image sensors are ubiquitous in consumer products, whether digital cameras or mobile phones. For scientific applications, specific designs need to be developed to achieve the required high performance. STFC is world leader in this field, having developed cutting edge sensors for a variety of applications, from ultra-high speed, visible light imaging to multi million pixels, revolutionary direct particle detection sensors for electron microscopy. The OverMOS team is aiming to take these developments one step further to provide the ultimate solution for the direct detection of particles, simultaneously achieving ultra high radiation resistance, in-pixel complex and fast processing and low noise. The OverMOS programme will revolutionise detectors for particle and nuclear physics as well as having a wide impact across all scientific areas as well as high-end commercial applications.

3D Detectors for Energy Resolved Gamma-ray Imaging

£33,500 has been awarded to Matthew Veale, RAL (TD)

Figure 2

Figure 2: (a) The proposed detector, (b) the readout ASIC, (c) sensor response and (d) induced charge collection.
(Credit: STFC)

Gamma-ray photons are emitted from a huge variety of different sources, from the explosive heart of a supernova to inside the body of a patient undergoing nuclear imaging in hospital. Whatever the source of these photons may be, their high energy makes them incredibly difficult to see and requires the development of new detector technologies. Over the last decade the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have pioneered the development of highly sensitive detector materials and electronics to try and detect these illusive photons.

In this new project we will test a new prototype 3D detector design where we combine detector pixels and strips (see Figure 1A) to detect these high energy gamma-rays. By carefully examining how each pixel and strip reacts to the absorption of a gamma-ray in the detector will allow us to identify its precise position and energy. Knowing this information will allow us to greatly improve the performance of existing detectors opening up exciting new areas of the electromagnetic spectrum for scientists to explore.

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