SCUBA-2 instrument: an application of large-format superconducting bolometer arrays for submillimetre astronomy
Hollister, Matthew Ian
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This thesis concerns technical aspects related to the design and operation of the submillimetre common-user bolometer array 2 (SCUBA-2) instrument, a new wide-field camera for submillimetre astronomy currently undergoing commissioning on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Offering unprecedented sensitivity and mapping capabilities, SCUBA-2 is expected to make a major impact in surveys of the sky at submillimetre wavelengths, a largely unexplored part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and provide better understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars and planets by providing large, unbiased samples of such objects. SCUBA-2 uses large arrays of bolometers, with superconducting transition edge sensors (TESs) as the temperature-sensitive element. TES devices are a relatively new technology, utilising the sharp resistance change between the normal and superconducting states to make a sensitive thermistor. Kilopixel arrays of such devices are multiplexed using superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs). This thesis derives the key detector performance parameters, and presents analysis of engineering data to confirm the detector performance on array scales. A key issue for bolometric instruments for far infrared and submillimetre astronomy is the need to operate at extremely low temperatures in the sub-kelvin and millikelvin ranges to achieve the necessary detector sensitivity. This work describes the design, testing and performance of the liquid cryogen-free millikelvin cryostat, the first such instrument to be deployed for astronomy. Subsequent chapters detail the design and testing of a magnetic shielding scheme for the instrument, an important aspect of the operation of superconducting devices. Based on experience with the construction and testing of this instrument, a number of potential improvements for future instruments are presented and discussed.