Cheaper, larger and better infrared detectors grown on silicon wafers could give more scientists access to infrared astronomy and further spur the hunt for exoplanets and the study of the universe's acceleration. Closer to home, the same technology could also advance remote sensing and medical imaging.
The National Science Foundation has awarded Rochester Institute of Technology $1.2 million to develop, fabricate and test a new family of detectors grown on silicon wafer substrates by Raytheon Visions Systems.
"If this is successful, the astronomy community will have a ready supply of affordable detectors that could be deployed on a wider range of facilities," says Don Figer, director of the Center for Detectors at RIT and lead scientist on the project. "Right now infrared detectors are so expensive that there are only a few on the world's biggest telescopesKeck, Gemini, the Very Large Telescope. Those are the only facilities that can afford them, and then they can only afford a few. They have big telescopes with big focal planes and tiny detectors in the middle."
Building and using advanced astronomical instrumentation is one of the strategic goals of the Center for Detectors, Figer says.
Advancing infrared detectors using silicon wafers will leverage the existing infrastructure built around the semiconductor industry and drive down the cost of building detectors. Silicon wafers are commonly used for semiconductor circuits found at the heart of electronic devices. Their wide commercial application makes silicon wafers attractive for a number of reasonsthey are produced in high volume, are readily available in large size and are inexpensive.
"The collaboration with RIT leverages over a decade of technological advancements Raytheon has made in manufacturing large format MBE/Si focal planes," says Elizabeth Corrales, program manager at Raytheon Vision Systems. "Infrared detectors with lower cost focal planes and improve
|Contact: Susan Gawlowicz|
Rochester Institute of Technology