Time resolved single photon imaging in Nanometer Scale CMOS technology
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Richardson, Justin Andrew
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Time resolved imaging is concerned with the measurement of photon arrival time. It has a wealth of emerging applications including biomedical uses such as fluorescence lifetime microscopy and positron emission tomography, as well as laser ranging and imaging in three dimensions. The impact of time resolved imaging on human life is significant: it can be used to identify cancerous cells in-vivo, how well new drugs may perform, or to guide a robot around a factory or hospital. Two essential building blocks of a time resolved imaging system are a photon detector capable of sensing single photons, and fast time resolvers that can measure the time of flight of light to picosecond resolution. In order to address these emerging applications, miniaturised, single-chip, integrated arrays of photon detectors and time resolvers must be developed with state of the art performance and low cost. The goal of this research is therefore the design, layout and verification of arrays of low noise Single Photon Avalanche Diodes (SPADs) together with high resolution Time-Digital Converters (TDCs) using an advanced silicon fabrication process. The research reported in this Thesis was carried out as part of the E.U. funded Megaframe FP6 Project. A 32x32 pixel, one million frames per second, time correlated imaging device has been designed, simulated and fabricated using a 130nm CMOS Imaging process from ST Microelectronics. The imager array has been implemented together with required support cells in order to transmit data off chip at high speed as well as providing a means of device control, test and calibration. The fabricated imaging device successfully demonstrates the research objectives. The Thesis presents details of design, simulation and characterisation results of the elements of the Megaframe device which were the author’s own work. Highlights of the results include the smallest and lowest noise SPAD devices yet published for this class of fabrication process and an imaging array capable of recording single photon arrivals every microsecond, with a minimum time resolution of fifty picoseconds and single bit linearity.