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Center Innovation Fund: GSFC CIF

Ultra-Low-Noise Sub-mm/FIR Detectors for Space-based Astrophysics

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The Ultra-Low-Noise Sub-mm/FIR Detectors for Space-based Astrophysics project develops structures that will improve the control of the thermal conductance in dielectric materials at sub-Kelvin temperature. This technology will enable the creation of more sensitive detectors for far-infrared astronomy that can be tiled into large arrays of many thousands of detectors.

The sensitivity of a thermal detector sensitive to submillimeter and far-infrared radiation is a function of the thermal conductance of the detector to its cryogenic environment.  It has proven difficult to optimize the thermal conductance of standard uniform micro-mechanical dielectric beams with prior knowledge of material properties and geometry. It is also extremely challenging to optimize a beam dimension that satisfies all the requirements of a space-borne instrument. Efforts presently underway in the field have pursued long  (> 1 mm) and narrow (< 0.5 microns) beams for achieving thermal conductances below 1 pW/K.  Special emphasis has been placed on the characterization of the thermal conductance as a function of temperature, material, and geometry.  In this work, we are engineering structures that block the flow of heat by design. By doing so we hope to construct new generations of detectors that are increasingly more sensitive and are compact so that large arrays of detectors can be constructed that will fill the focal planes of future NASA missions.

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