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CfI Managed Programmes

April 2018 to March 2019
5 Nov 2018
STFC National Laboratories

We currently support multi-year ‘Programmes’ in the following areas.

MP01 Additive Manufacturing

Hermine Schenetler (TD - UKATC)

Additive manufacturing (also known as “3-D printing”) is considered one of the key technologies of the future. From the ability to make new light-weighted electric cars to aerodynamic wings for planes the number of potential applications is almost endless. Scientific instruments are becoming ever more complex as we stride to answer some of the most fundamental questions. In astronomy, for example, ultra-sensitive new instruments will be designed to not only detect, but also to characterise Earth-like planets around other stars. This programme aims to develop AM techniques to aid the design and build of the next generation of instruments. These will be lighter, easier to construct (less parts) and align, resulting in more compact, reliable and cheaper to build instruments. This programme concentrates on several key areas including light-weighed mirrors, low-temperature circuits, integrated optics and consolidated mechanisms for manipulating light. The aim is to be able to design and build a scientific instrument that has a substantial number of parts manufactured by AM techniques to demonstrate the potential of the process.

MP02 Advanced Optics Programme

David Lee (TD - UKATC)

Scientists and engineers in many areas of STFC need to measure and manipulate visible and infrared light using various technologies. This Programme helps to develop technologies to support both current and future STFC programme in many areas. The two new technology themes we are currently working on are integrated photonics – where many optical components such as lenses are combined in a single block of glass, and adaptive optics for microscopy and astronomy – to enable capture of better images via real-time correction and control of the microscope and telescope optics.



Figure 2: Hollow Waveguide LIDAR, Intra-waveguide feedback modelling, Infrared ULI grating and ULI single waveguide in GLS.
(Credit: STFC)


The first technology theme, integrated photonics technology, will enable the miniaturization of instrumentation for measuring light, and these sensors can be deployed on telescopes, satellites, or in a laboratory. The scientific applications are diverse, ranging from the measurement of polluting gases in the Earth’s atmosphere to use on telescopes to measure the properties of stars and galaxies.

The second technology theme continues to combine STFC adaptive optics expertise from the very large (astronomy) to the very small (super-resolution microscopy). On the microscopy side, the team will concentrate on improving the numerical modelling tools, comparing them to laboratory results and further developing novel wavefront sensing methodologies. In 2013, a common need across a number of STFC science areas was identified: the need for real-time control of optical system. A multi-year project to address this was started; the team will now proceed with the development of the now well specified real-time controller suitable for the control of complex optical systems.

MP03 IP For Future Image Sensors

Iain Sedgewick (TD)

CMOS Image Sensors (CIS) have revolutionised modern electronic imaging and are now ubiquitous in our digital cameras and smartphones. This huge growth in consumer technology is also being leveraged for scientific purposes and the STFC CMOS Sensor Design Group has considerable experience in this field. STFC’s core programme covers areas as diverse as Particle Physics, astronomy and Space Science as well as the large facilities which we support that are also increasingly making use of CIS technology.

STFC’s CMOS Sensor Design Group already develop sensors for many of these applications and further advances in noise, speed, spatial resolution and radiation hardness are vital to keep all these research areas and facilities at their cutting edge. It is the goal of this Programme to make such advancements and deliver the technology ready to be deployed in the STFC Programme. We will do this by designing and fabricating prototype devices which will demonstrate improved performance in these areas. This work will also engage with the other CfI Programmes and our international collaborators to keep STFC at the forefront of new technical developments. Working with others allows this to be achieved in the most cost-effective manner possible.

In the first year, the focus will be on low noise and high speed developments. Research will also initiate developments for improved radiation hardness and spatial resolution with the goal of building on these areas in future years.

MP04 Interconnect Technologies for Future Advanced Applications

Andreas Schneider (TD)

In the past few years STFC demonstrated successfully the assembly of X-ray detectors for important international projects (e.g. LPD XFEL). Well-chosen materials and components for these detectors allowed the development and standardisation of a few well-established bonding processes for these specialized applications. Now the demand for bonding of more complex layouts and less standardized materials increases. Often these devices are already populated with electronic components, or consist of specialist substrates (flexible printed circuits, ceramic substrates) and often these device materials are not perfectly even or uniform. Further the complexity in 3-dimensional (3D) integration increases drastically. The bonding techniques for these innovative applications also require additional automation in order to achieve reliable and repeatable processes. The 3-years programme focus on novel complex assembly challenges, next generation materials, and advanced automation. Assembly and bonding processes for large and flexible substrates and materials with 3D complexity (e.g. apertures, channels, components) which restrict current bonding capabilities due to the absence of perfect flatness will be investigated. Methods for improved thermal management of such complex detectors will be developed. Interposer materials with fan-out structures will be investigated for bridging the boundary between fine pitch ASICs and sensors to host PCBs for a number of applications. Novel direct bond methods and bond process with simultaneous multiple- material dispensing will be tested. Processes for these novel applications will be identified and relevant processes will be developed. Those processes will be broken down into well-documented production steps for a catalogue of standardized modular processes. Required automation will be analysed.

MP05 Microelectronics Development

Mark Prydderch (TD)

Microelectronic technologies are constantly developing and shrinking in size, resulting in increased design complexity and changing behaviour of the basic circuit elements. This presents designers with new challenges to overcome, along with increased cost and risk for projects. Similarly, due to this increasing cost and complexity the software tools are also constantly evolving in order to provide the verification tools that offer designers the confidence to commit their designs to silicon.

This CFI Programme will develop experience with the advanced technologies that will be needed to meet the demands of future Instruments, through the design of targeted circuit IP that will be verified in silicon. Full use will be made of the latest advanced software design tools, developing our understanding of these tools and their practical limitations, and disseminating the hands-on experience gained.

MP06 Front-End Electronics and Detectors (FEEDER)

Matt Veale (TD)

Detectors operating at low temperatures are used across the scientific community in fields such as Earth observation, astronomy, neutrino and nuclear physics, and photon sciences. All these applications face the same issue of transmitting highly sensitive electronic signals from cold detectors to room temperature acquisition systems through cryostat walls without degrading the information contained. The use of cryogenic Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) can provide high levels of electronic readout performance while also greatly reducing the number and sensitivity of signals returning to room temperature. This bid will further develop STFCs low temperature ASIC design expertise and establish a catalogue of low power wide temperature range circuit blocks for future use. This will allow us to test design concepts, de-risk future low temperature ASIC design projects, and develop demonstrator circuits for commonly used functions. Many of today’s scientific discoveries rely on advanced facilities like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN or the European X-Ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL.EU) in Hamburg that generate ultra-intense beams of particles and photons. The discoveries these facilities produce would not be possible without equally advanced detector systems. The STFC Technology Department has a proven track record of delivering world-leading detector technology to these facilities, like the recently delivered Large Pixel Detector for XFEL.EU.

In recent years, novel detector materials based on compound semiconductor materials like cadmium telluride (CdTe) and gallium arsenide (GaAs:Cr) have matured to a level where they have moved from use in novel applications at large science facilities to becoming a key component of the latest generation of medical imaging scanners. While the last decade has seen an increase in the commercial availability of advanced detector materials, there has been no significant development of read out chips (ASICs) that can take advantage of these improvements. The majority of the current generation of X-ray imaging ASICs were designed all designed in the early 2000’s and during this time the world’s large facilities have not stood still and have undergone their own series of developments.

Users of today’s facilities are already requesting detectors that can measure ever increasing amounts of photons (>106 photons s-1 mm-2) at ever higher energies (>> 20 keV). These demands are already outpacing the capabilities of existing detector technologies and this is a trend that is set to continue as new facilities come online. This programme will build on the expertise within the STFC Technology Department to design innovative new imaging technologies that will meet the developing needs of the UK and global science community to continue their ability to produce cutting edge science.

Last updated: 05 November 2018


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