Monolithic focal-plane arrays of photodetectors capable of imaging the same scenes simultaneously in multiple wavelength bands in the visible and infrared spectral regions have been proposed. In prior visible/infrared imaging systems, it has been standard practice to use separate optical trains to form images in visible and infrared wavelength bands on separate visible- and infrared-photodetector arrays. Because the proposal would enable the detection of images in multiple wavelength bands on the same focal plane, the proposal would make it unnecessary to use multiple optical trains. Hence, multispectral imaging systems could be made more compact and the difficulties of aligning multiple optical trains would be eliminated.

Each pixel in an array according to the proposal would contain stacks of several photodetectors. The proposal is a logical extension of prior concepts of arrays of stacked photodetectors for imaging in two or three wavelength bands. For example, such an array was described in “Three- Color Focal-Plane Array of Infrared QWIPs” (NPO-20683), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 24, No. 5 (May 2000), page 26a.

In one proposed design, (see figure), each pixel would be divided into four subpixels, one being dedicated to a visible and near-infrared (V) band, one to a combination of the V band and a very-long wavelength infrared (VLWIR) band, one to a combination of the V band and a long-wavelength infrared (LWIR) band, and one to a combination of the V band and a medium-wavelength infrared (MWIR) band. For this purpose, each subpixel would include a GaAs-based positive/ intrinsic/negative (PIN) photodiode for detection in the V band stacked with three quantum-well infrared photodetectors (QWIPs), each optimized for one of the aforementioned infrared bands. The stacks of photodetectors in all the subpixels would be identical except for the electrical connections, which would be configured to activate the various wavelength band combinations.

This work was done by Sarath Gunapala, Sumith Bandara, John Liu, and David Ting of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free online at under the Electronics/Computers category.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

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Refer to NPO-30541, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Photodetector Arrays for Multicolor Visible/Infrared Imaging

(reference NPO-30541) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the October, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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