A 1,024 × 1,024-pixel array of quantumwell infrared photodetectors (QWIPs) has been built on a 1.8 × 1.8-cm GaAs chip. In tests, the array was found to perform well in detecting images at wavelengths from 8 to 9 μm in operation at temperatures between 60 and 70 K. The largest-format QWIP prior array that performed successfully in tests contained 512 × 640 pixels.

There is continuing development effort directed toward satisfying actual and anticipated demands to increase numbers of pixels and pixel sizes in order to increase the imaging resolution of infrared photodetector arrays. A 1,024 × 1,024-pixel and even larger formats have been achieved in the InSb and HgCdTe material systems, but photodetector arrays in these material systems are very expensive and manufactured by fewer than half a dozen large companies. In contrast, GaAs-photodetectorarray technology is very mature, and photodetectors in the GaAs material system can be readily manufactured by a wide range of industrial technologists, by universities, and government laboratories.

There is much similarity between processing in the GaAs industry and processing in the pervasive silicon industry. With respect to yield and cost, the performance of GaAs technology substantially exceeds that of InSb and HgCdTe technologies. In addition, GaAs detectors can be designed to respond to any portion of the wavelength range from 3 to about 16 μm — a feature that is very desirable for infrared imaging. GaAs QWIP arrays, like the present one, have potential for use as imaging sensors in infrared measuring instruments, infrared medical imaging systems, and infrared cameras.

This work was performed by Murzy Jhabvala of Goddard Space Flight Center and K. K. Choi of the U. S. Army Research Lab and Sarath Gunapala of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, contact the Goddard Innovative Partnerships Office at (301) 286-5810. GSC-14688-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.