"Raytheon has come up with an innovation to combine the silicon wafer with the mercury cadmium telluride light-sensitive layer in a way that eliminates all these bad effects," Figer says. "Our proposal is to do a fabrication run of parts based on this new technology and then evaluate the technology in the laboratory and on a telescope."
RIT and Raytheon will design and fabricate arrays of 1,024 by 1,024 pixels and 2,048 by 2,048 pixels and test them in the laboratories of the Center for Detector.
"Not only are silicon wafers much more affordable, but they can be made in much larger sizes because the wafers are now big," Figer says. "Instead of being a four-inch wafer, it can be 12 inches, for instance. We can make a 14,000-by-14,000-pixel detector. That has not been done. It could end up dominating the field in infrared detectors for the next 20 years."
Noise can obscure signals coming from the faint objects in the universe. Figer's team will measure the detector performance using a system based on one he designed for the Space Telescope Science Institute to measure the performance of detectors to be flown on the James Webb Telescope.
Figer will also develop a new light-tight detector housing to keep the detector optically and thermally isolated from everything around it. The box-within-a-box design is cooled to 60 Kelvin (-350 F) to reduce the glow, or blackbody radiation, emitted from warmer objects around the detector and prevent additional noise.
The National Science Foundation funding to develop the technology will carry Figer and his team to the second phase of the project and the design of a much bigger device on the scale of 4,000 by 4,000 pixels. An international consortium of organizations is needed to fund the fabrication of these larger detectors.
"I am going around the world talking to directors of observa
|Contact: Susan Gawlowicz|
Rochester Institute of Technology