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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 A fast NIR SPAD camera for Raman spectroscopy

Luca Caffoni (RAL Space)

Prototype system geometry.

Single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detectors are revolutionising modern imaging and time-resolved spectroscopy thanks to detection capabilities at the level of individual photons. Recently, cameras based on SPAD technology have been proposed for improving Raman spectrometers by addressing the suppression of fluorescence interference – one of the greatest, largely unmet challenges in modern Raman spectroscopy.

This project combines expertise from multiple STFC departments (RAL Space, Technology and Central Laser Facility) for developing a pioneering 2D SPAD camera prototype with NIR-enhanced sensitivity and high temporal resolution (<200 ps). This camera will be at the heart of an innovative time-gated Raman spectrometer with spectrally extended VIS-NIR detection capabilities that promises a step-change towards breaking the bottleneck of fluorescence suppression.

This technology has high commercial potential for in-field Raman applications such as stand-off sample analysis (e.g. planetary surface exploration and security screening), the detection of heavily fluorescing biological samples relevant to life sciences, and quality control in pharmaceutical products. In addition, it is expected to foster advances in fields of fast imaging, bio photonics, astronomy and quantum cryptography, where sub-nanosecond time resolution, photon-counting capability and enhanced NIR sensitivity are highly desirable features.

MP02 Advanced circuits for future high rate detector systems

Mark Prydderch (TD)

In science facilities at STFC and around the world, scientists want to study very fast processes such as proteins folding in biological samples, how cracks propagate in materials, or how bubbles form in liquids, as well as many other applications. They can only achieve this through the use of advanced detector systems capable of delivering both the image and time resolution that matches the physical processes involved, so advancing our knowledge requires the development of new detector systems with smaller pixel sizes and higher framerates.

The LPD Super Module used at European XFEL.


Many of the imaging systems we have planned are demanding spectroscopic imaging with pixel sizes down to 50 micrometres, requiring advanced technologies and new approaches in circuit design to achieve the desired performance in such a small pixel. Unlike existing high rate detector systems that rely upon storing data from short bursts of image frames, each of these detectors run continuously and provide full length video of processes in action, creating nearly 2 million bits of digital data per frame at a rate of one million frames per second (2 Terabits/second), for which high-speed data driving circuits will be needed to handle the data volume and keep the number of data connections at a manageable level.

This programme will develop innovative new circuits to address both of these the demanding requirements for future detector systems, thereby enabling the science of tomorrow.

MP03 ADviSe - Advanced Detectors for Science

Matt Wilson (TD)

(Left) EJ-270 scintillator undergoing photoluminescence
(Right) Pulse shapes from neutrons and gamma rays from the EJ-270 scintillator measured with a PMT.


This project is focussed around testing and characterising the radiation detecting element of the next generation of cameras to meet the needs of our science facilities. In one work package new novel scintillators will be used where the detected radiation is converted to optical light. This conversion will be exploited by using optics to give high magnification for high resolution imaging and using the light pulse shape to be able to identify neutron events from gamma backgrounds at high rates (see figure below). In further work packages potential semiconductor detectors will also be examined to assess their suitability for the next generation of MHz imaging systems for our synchrotrons and free electron lasers.

MP04 High Speed DAQ and Control

Matt Hart (TD)

This CFI programme at STFC is developing a data readout and control scheme and accompanying hardware to operate our next generation of detectors. This will accommodate 1M pixel sized x-ray detectors operating at 1MHz rates and 4M-16M CMOS sensors running at many kHz. 

Data rates from the next generation of detectors will be comparable to global internet traffic rates.

MP05 Detector Systems Front End Verification Framework

Mark Prydderch (TD)

STFC-developed Large Pixelated Detector (LPD) ASIC for the European XFEL.
(Credit: STFC)


Neutrons and muons are used to determine the structure and dynamics of materials down to the atomic level. A wide range of techniques is employed (diffraction, reflectometry, scattering, and spectroscopy), each requiring a dedicated detector with up to 2000 channels. Meanwhile, micro-pattern gaseous detectors and scintillators keep improving charge collection time and sensitivity. These trends complicate the readout, traditionally implemented with discrete components, and favours the use of Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASIC) to meet very challenging performance. These include, adjustable shaping time down to nanoseconds, picocoulombs linear dynamic range, low noise with nanofarads input capacitance, individual channel threshold programming, being sensitive to both charge polarities and to operate at tens of megahertz sampling rate. This project will deliver ground-breaking readout front-ends, ready for use in future ASICs. We expect these to benefit a wide range of communities, including neutron scattering, muon spectroscopy, synchrotron radiation, and nuclear physics.

MP06 Quantum Technology

Tristan Valenzuela-Salazar (RAL Space)

An example second generation Atom chip.

STFC is engaged in programmes to improve the performance of its facilities as well as being actively engaged in the development of new capabilities overseas. Any new facilities development also requires the production of detector systems. History has shown that constructing these systems from existing detector technology can only ever yield marginal advances in science. In order to achieve step changes in our scientific capabilities we require performance improvements in both our facilities and instrumentation. We are developing new facilities all the time and specifically we will engage in systems using quantum interference/entanglement of photons-with-photons and matter-with-matter. In order to do this we are developing new quantum equipment simultaneously using finely tuned lasers with very low temperatures, low magnetic fields and low vibration. This program is to identify and develop the next generation instrumentation to manipulate quantum systems. In this coming year, we will focus on developing an Atom Chip which can be used to prepare and hold atoms in a very low energy configuration (Bose Einstein Condensate) for use in Atom Interferometers.

Last updated: 26 October 2021


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