CCDs : Current Developments

Part 1 : Deep Depletion CCDs
Improving the red response of CCDs.

Part 2 : Low Light Level CCDs (LLLCCD)
A new idea from Marconi (EEV) to reduce or eliminate CCD read-out noise.

Part 1 : Deep Depletion CCDs
Improving the red response of CCDs.

Charge Collection in a CCD.
Photons entering the CCD create electron-hole pairs. The electrons are then attracted towards the most positive potential in the device where they create ‘charge packets’. Each packet corresponds to one pixel

pixel boundary

incoming photons

Charge packet

n-type silicon p-type silicon

Electrode Structure SiO2 Insulating layer

pixel boundary

Deep Depletion CCDs 1.
The electric field structure in a CCD defines to a large degree its Quantum Efficiency (QE). Consider first a thick frontside illuminated CCD, which has a poor QE. Electric potential

Cross section through a thick frontside illuminated CCD In this region the electric potential gradient is fairly low i.e. the electric field is low.

Potential along this line shown in graph above.

Any photo-electrons created in the region of low electric field stand a much higher chance of recombination and loss. There is only a weak external field to sweep apart the photo-electron and the hole it leaves behind.

Deep Depletion CCDs 2.
In a thinned CCD , the field free region is simply etched away. Electric potential

Cross section through a thinned CCD There is now a high electric field throughout the full depth of the CCD. Problem : Thinned CCDs may have good blue response but they become transparent at longer wavelengths; the red response suffers.

This volume is etched away during manufacture

Red photons can now pass right through the CCD. Photo-electrons created anywhere throughout the depth of the device will now be detected. Photons no longer have to pass through the electrode structure to reach active silicon.

Deep Depletion CCDs 3.
Ideally we require all the benefits of a thinned CCD plus an improved red response. The solution is to use a CCD with an intermediate thickness of about 40µm constructed from Hi-Resistivity silicon. The increased thickness makes the device opaque to red photons. The use of Hi-Resistivity silicon means that there are no field free regions despite the greater thickness. Electric potential Cross section through a Deep Depletion CCD

Problem : Hi resistivity silicon contains much lower impurity levels than normal. Very few wafer fabrication factories commonly use this material and deep depletion CCDs have to be designed and made to order. Red photons are now absorbed in the thicker bulk of the device.

There is now a high electric field throughout the full depth of the CCD. CCDs manufactured in this way are known as Deep depletion CCDs. The name implies that the region of high electric field, also known as the ‘depletion zone’ extends deeply into the device.

100 90 80 70 60

QE Improvements with Deep Depletion CCDs

CC1D20 MBE single AR @320nm CC1D20 BIV Broad Band AR EEV12 (Standard Thinned) Marconi Deep Depletion (broad Band AR)

QE %

50 40 30 20 10 0 300 400

500

600

700

800

900

1000

nm

Deep Depletion CCDs 4. Fringing will also be reduced
Images illuminated by 900nm filter with 2nm bandpass

Thinned Marconi CCD (Current ISIS Blue)

CCID20 Deep Depletion CCD

Test data courtesy of ESO

ING Deep Depletion Camera

Destined for ISIS RED sometime this Summer

Part 2 : Low Light Level CCDs (LLLCCDs)

A new idea from Marconi that creates internal electron gain in a CCD and reduces read-noise to sub-electron levels.

CCD Analogy
RAIN (PHOTONS) VERTICAL CONVEYOR BELTS (CCD COLUMNS)

BUCKETS (PIXELS)

HORIZONTAL CONVEYOR BELT

MEASURING CYLINDER (OUTPUT AMPLIFIER)

(SERIAL REGISTER)

Photomicrograph of a corner of an EEV CCD.

Image Area

Bus wires Read Out Amplifier

Serial Register

Edge of Silicon

Charge Collection in a CCD.
Photons entering the CCD create electron-hole pairs. The electrons are then attracted towards the most positive potential in the device where they create ‘charge packets’. Each packet corresponds to one pixel.

pixel boundary

incoming photons

Charge packet

n-type silicon p-type silicon

Electrode Structure SiO2 Insulating layer

pixel boundary

Conventional Clocking 1
Insulating layer Charge packet (photo-electrons) P-type silicon N-type silicon

Surface electrodes

Potential Energy

Charge packets occupy potential minimums

Conventional Clocking 2

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 3

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 4

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 5

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 6

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 7

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 8

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 9

Potential Energy

Conventional Clocking 10

Charge packets have moved one pixel to the right

Potential Energy

LLLCCD Gain Register Architecture

Conventional CCD

LLLCCD

Image Area
On-Chip Amplifier On-Chip Amplifier

Image Area
(Architecture unchanged)

Serial register

{

Serial register

Gain register

The Gain Register can be added to any existing design

Multiplication Clocking 1
In this diagram we see a small section of the gain register

Gain electrode

Potential Energy

Multiplication Clocking 2
Gain electrode energised. Charge packets accelerated strongly into deep potential well. Energetic electrons loose energy through creation of more charge carriers (analogous to multiplication effects in the dynodes of a photo-multiplier) .
Gain electrode

Potential Energy

Multiplication Clocking 3
Clocking continues but each time the charge packets pass through the gain electrode, further amplification is produced. Gain per stage is low, <1.015, however the number of stages is high so the total gain can easily exceed 10,000

Potential Energy

Multiplication Clocking 4
Gain Sensitivity of CCD65

10000 1000 Gain 100 10 1 20 25 30 Clock High Voltage 35 40

Readout Noise of CCD65
100 Equivalent noise electrons RMS 10 1 0.1 0.01 20 25 30 Clock High Voltage 35 40

The Multiplication Register has a gain strongly dependant on the clock voltage

Noise Equations 1. Conventional CCD SNR Equation SNR = Q.I.t.[Q.t.( I +B ) +N ]
SKY

2 r

-0.5

Q I

t
BSKY Nr

= Quantum Efficiency = Photons per pixel per second = Integration time in seconds = Sky background in photons per pixel per second = Amplifier (read-out) noise in electrons RMS

Very hard to get Nr < 3e, and then only by slowing down the readout significantly. At TV frame rates, noise > 50e Trade-off between readout speed and readout noise

Noise Equations 2. LLLCCD SNR Equation
SNR = Q.I.t.Fn.[Q.t.Fn.( I +BSKY) +(Nr/G)2 ] -0.5

G = Gain of the Gain Register Fn = Multiplication Noise factor = 0.5

With G set sufficiently high, this term goes to zero, even at TV frame rates.
Unfortunately, the problem of multiplication noise is introduced

Readout speed and readout noise are decoupled

Multiplication Noise 1.
In this example, A flat field image is read out through the multiplication register. Mean illumination is 16e/pixel. Multiplication register gain =100
Ideal Histogram, StdDev=Gain x (Mean Illumination in electrons )0.5 Actual Histogram, StdDev=Gain x (Mean Illumination in electrons )0.5 x M

Histogram broadened by multiplication noise

Probability

M=1.4

Electrons per pixel at output of multiplication register

Multiplication Noise 2.
Multiplication noise has the same effect as a reduction of QE by a factor of two. In high signal environments , LLLCCDs will generally perform worse than conventional CCDs. They come into their own, however, in low signal, high-speed regimes.

SNR

Conventional CCD LLLCCD

Signal Level

Photon Counting 1.
Offers a way of removing multiplication noise.
Photo-electron detection threshold
CCD Video waveform

One No photo-electron photo-electron

One photo-electron

No No Two photo-electron photo-electron photo-electrons

Photo-electron detection pulses Fast comparator

Co-incidence loss here

CCD

Approx 100ns

SNR = Q.I.t.[Q.t.( I +BSKY)] -0.5

Noiseless Detector

Photon Counting 2.
If exposure levels are too high, multi-electron events will be counted as single-electron events, leading to co-incidence losses . This limits the linearity and reduces the effective QE of the system.
Non-Linearity from Photon-Counting Coincidence Losses

Photo-electron generation rate Non-Linearity (electrons per pixel per frame) % 0.02 1 0.033 1.6 0.1 5

In the case of a hypothetical 1K x 1K photon counting CCD, the maximum frame rate would be approximately 10Hz. If we can only accept 5% non-linearity then the maximum illumination would be approximately 1 photo-electron per pixel per second.

Summary.

The three operational regimes of LLLCCDs
1) Unity Gain Mode.
The CCD operates normally with the SNR dictated by the photon shot noise added in quadrature with the amplifier read noise. In general a slow readout is required (300KPix/second) to obtain low read noise (4 electrons would be typical). Higher readout speeds possible but there will be a trade-off with the read-noise.

2) High Gain Mode.
Gain set sufficiently high to make noise in the readout amplifier of the CCD negligible. The drawback is the introduction of Multiplication Noise that reduces the SNR by a factor of 1.4. Read noise is de-coupled from read-out speed. Very high speed readout possible, up to 11MPixels per second, although in practice the frame rate will probably be limited by factors external to the CCD.

3) Photon Counting Mode.
Gain is again set high but the video waveform is passed through a comparator. Each trigger of the comparator is then treated as a single photo-electron of equal weight. Multiplication noise is thus eliminated. Risk of coincidence losses at higher illumination levels.

Possible Application 1.
Acquisition Cameras
Performance at CASS of WHT analysed below. The calculated SNR is for a single TV frame (40ms). It is assumed that the seeing disc of the target star evenly illuminates 28 pixels (0.6” seeing, 0.1”/pixel plate scale). SNR calculated for each pixel of the image.
3.5 3 2.5
SNR

Normal CCD L3CS (LLLCCD) theoretical limit

2 1.5 1 0.5 0 17 18 19
Mv

Zero-noise image tube

20

21

22

Assumptions: CCD QE=85%, LLLCCD QE=30%, Image Tube QE =11% dark of moon, seeing 0.6”, 24um pixels (0.1”per pixel), 25Hz frame rate

Possible Application 2.
Acquisition Cameras
As for the previous slide but instead the exposure time is increased to 10s

10 9 8 7 6 SNR 5 4 3 2 1 0 17 18 19 Mv 20 21 22

Cryocam (standard CCD) L3CS (LLLCCD) theoretical limit Zero-noise image tube

Possible Application 3.
Photon Counting Faint Object Spectroscopy
LLLCCDs operating in photon counting mode would seem to offer some promise. The graph below shows the time taken to reach a SNR=3 for various source intensities
10

Thinned LLLCCD with Gain=1000 Thinned LLLCCD +Photon Counting

Source intensity at the detector (photons per pixel per second)

1

Conventional CCD

0.1

0.01 0 200 400 600 800 1000 Exposure Time Seconds

QE=70% Amplifier Noise =5e Background =0.001 photons per pixel per second

Possible Application 4.
Wave Front Sensors
Algorithm used on the current NAOMI WFS produces reliable centroid data when total signal per sub-aperture exceeds about 60 photons.
10 9 8 7 6 SNR 5 4 3 2 1 0

Current NAOMI WFS Thinned LLLCCD With Gain=1000 shot noise limit

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

100

Photons per pixel per WFS frame

Amplifier Noise=5e QE= 70%

Marconi LLLCCD Products 1. CCD65
Aimed at TV applications as a substitute for image tube sensors. 576 x 288 pixels. Thick frontside illuminated, peak QE of 35%. 20 x 30um pixels Camera systems based on this chip available winter 2001 Would subtend 51” x 39” at WHT CASS

CCD 60
128x 128 pixel, thinned, has been built but still under development. For possible application to Wavefront Sensing.

Low Priority for Marconi without encouragement from the astronomical community

CCD 79,86,87
Proposed future devices up to 1K square, > 10 frames per second readout at sub-electron noise levels. As above

Marconi LLLCCD Products 2. L3CS
Packaged camera containing TE cooled CCD65 frontside illuminated 20ms-100sec integration times 2e per pix per sec dark current Binning and Windowing available Firewire Interface +video output Available towards end of 2001 (£25K)

L3CA
Packaged camera containing TE cooled CCD65 frontside illuminated 20ms-100sec integration times <1e per pix per sec dark current Binning available video output

Lecture slides available on the ING web: http://www.ing.iac.es/~smt/LLLCCD/lllccd.htm

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