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21 July 2014 Revolutionary visible and infrared sensor detectors for the most advanced astronomical AO systems
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We report in this paper decisive advance on the detector development for the astronomical applications that require very fast operation. Since the CCD220 and OCAM2 major success, new detector developments started in Europe either for visible and IR wavelengths. Funded by ESO and the FP7 Opticon European network, the NGSD CMOS device is fully dedicated to Natural and Laser Guide Star AO for the E-ELT with strong ESO involvement. The NGSD will be a 880x840 pixels CMOS detector with a readout noise of 3 e (goal 1e) at 700 Hz frame rate and providing digital outputs. A camera development, based on this CMOS device and also funded by the Opticon European network, is ongoing. Another major AO wavefront sensing detector development concerns IR detectors based on Avalanche Photodiode (e- APD) arrays within the RAPID project. Developed by the SOFRADIR and CEA/LETI manufacturers, the latter offers a 320x255 8 outputs 30 microns IR array, sensitive from 0.4 to 3 microns, with less than 2 e readout noise at 1600 fps. A rectangular window can also be programmed to speed up even more the frame rate when the full frame readout is not required. The high QE response, in the range of 70%, is almost flat over this wavelength range. Advanced packaging with miniature cryostat using pulse tube cryocoolers was developed in the frame of this programme in order to allow use on this detector in any type of environment. The characterization results of this device are presented here. Readout noise as low as 1.7 e at 1600 fps has been measured with a 3 microns wavelength cut-off chip and a multiplication gain of 14 obtained with a limited photodiode polarization of 8V. This device also exhibits excellent linearity, lower than 1%. The pulse tube cooling allows smart and easy cooling down to 55 K. Vibrations investigations using centroiding and FFT measurements were performed proving that the miniature pulse tube does not induce measurable vibrations to the optical bench, allowing use of this cooled device without liquid nitrogen in very demanding environmental conditions. A successful test of this device was performed on sky on the PIONIER 4 telescopes beam combiner on the VLTi at ESOParanal in June 2014. First Light Imaging, which will commercialize a camera system using also APD infrared arrays in its proprietary wavefront sensor camera platform. These programs are held with several partners, among them are the French astronomical laboratories (LAM, OHP, IPAG), the detector manufacturers (e2v technologies, Sofradir, CEA/LETI) and other partners (ESO, ONERA, IAC, GTC, First Light Imaging). Funding is: Opticon FP7 from European Commission, ESO, CNRS and Université de Provence, Sofradir, ONERA, CEA/LETI the French FUI (DGCIS), the FOCUS Labex and OSEO.
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