INTEGRATED SINGLE-PHOTON SENSING AND PROCESSING PLATFORM IN STANDARD CMOS
Abshire, Pamela A
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Practical implementation of large SPAD-based sensor arrays in the standard CMOS process has been fraught with challenges due to the many performance trade-offs existing at both the device and the system level . At the device level the performance challenge stems from the suboptimal optical characteristics associated with the standard CMOS fabrication process. The challenge at the system level is the development of monolithic readout architecture capable of supporting the large volume of dynamic traffic, associated with multiple single-photon pixels, without limiting the dynamic range and throughput of the sensor. Due to trade-offs in both functionality and performance, no general solution currently exists for an integrated single-photon sensor in standard CMOS single photon sensing and multi-photon resolution. The research described herein is directed towards the development of a versatile high performance integrated SPAD sensor in the standard CMOS process. Towards this purpose a SPAD device with elongated junction geometry and a perimeter field gate that features a large detection area and a highly reduced dark noise has been presented and characterized. Additionally, a novel front-end system for optimizing the dynamic range and after-pulsing noise of the pixel has been developed. The pixel is also equipped with an output interface with an adjustable pulse width response. In order to further enhance the effective dynamic range of the pixel a theoretical model for accurate dead time related loss compensation has been developed and verified. This thesis also introduces a new paradigm for electrical generation and encoding of the SPAD array response that supports fully digital operation at the pixel level while enabling dynamic discrete time amplitude encoding of the array response. Thus offering a first ever system solution to simultaneously exploit both the dynamic nature and the digital profile of the SPAD response. The array interface, comprising of multiple digital inputs capacitively coupled onto a shared quasi-floating sense node, in conjunction with the integrated digital decoding and readout electronics represents the first ever solid state single-photon sensor capable of both photon counting and photon number resolution. The viability of the readout architecture is demonstrated through simulations and preliminary proof of concept measurements.