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CMOS imager with 1024 SPADs and TDCs for single-photon timing and 3-D time-of-flight

: Villa, Federica; Lussana, Rudi; Bronzi, Danilo; Tisa, Simone; Tosi, Alberto; Zappa, Franco; Dalla Mora, Alberto; Contini, Davide; Durini, Daniel; Weyers, Sascha; Brockherde, Werner


IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics 20 (2014), Nr.6, Art. 3804810, 10 S.
ISSN: 1077-260X
Fraunhofer IMS ()
photon counting; CMOS imagers; single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD); 2-D imaging; 3-D ranging; time-of-flight; photon tagging; time-correlated single-photon counting (TCSPC); light detection and ranging (LIDAR)

We present a CMOS imager consisting of $32times 32$ smart pixels, each one able to detect single photons in the 300-900 nm wavelength range and to perform both photon-counting and photon-timing operations on very fast optical events with faint intensities. In photon-counting mode, the imager provides photon-number (i.e., intensity) resolved movies of the scene under observation, up to 100 000 frames/s. In photon-timing, the imager provides photon arrival times with 312 ps resolution. The result are videos with either time-resolved (e.g., fluorescence) maps of a sample, or 3-D depth-resolved maps of a target scene. The imager is fabricated in a cost-effective 0.35-µm CMOS technology, automotive certified. Each pixel consists of a single-photon avalanche diode with 30 µm photoactive diameter, coupled to an in-pixel 10-bit time-to-digital converter with 320-ns full-scale range, an INL of 10% LSB and a DNL of 2% LSB. The chip operates in global shutter mode, with full frame times down to 10 ms and just 1-ns conversion time. The reconfigurable imager design enables a broad set of applications, like time-resolved spectroscopy, fluorescence lifetime imaging, diffusive optical tomography, molecular imaging, time-of-flight 3-D ranging and atmospheric layer sensing through LIDAR.