Next-generation NASA missions, such as the LUVIOR and HabEx concepts, require single photon counting large-format detectors. Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs) have typically been used for optical applications in similar flagship missions of the past. CCDs have excellent properties in most metrics but have their own challenges for single photon counting applications. First, typical CCDs have a read noise of a few electrons, although recent modifications (EMCCDs) use an on-chip gain to amplify the signal above the read noise. Secondly, the signal is carried by charge that is transferred across the detector array. While CCDs for NASA missions are carefully fabricated to minimize defects, continuous bombardment from high energy radiation in space will damage the detector over the lifetime of the mission. This will degrade the charge transfer efficiency and in turn, reduce the single photon counting ability of the CCD. CMOS devices offer a different architecture that mitigates some of these problems. In CMOS image sensors, each pixel has its own charge to voltage converter and in-pixel amplifier mitigating issues found with charge transfer efficiency. Additional circuits that are critical to operation of the sensor can be incorporated on chip allowing for a parallel readout architecture that increases frame rate and can decrease read noise. This thesis is a collection of work for the characterization of a room temperature characterization, low-noise, single photon counting and photon number resolving CMOS detector. The work performed in this thesis will provide the framework for a technology development project funded by NASA Cosmic Origins (COR) program office. At the end of the two-year project, a megapixel CMOS focal plane array will be demonstrated to satisfy the stated needs of the LUVOIR and HabEx future astrophysics space mission concepts with a launch date near the 2040s.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Photon detectors--Design and construction; Metal oxide semiconductors, Complementary--Design and construction

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Astrophysical Sciences and Technology (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


Donald F. Figer

Advisor/Committee Member

Michael Zemcov

Advisor/Committee Member

Gregory Howland


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes