You are here

Detector Technologies for UV, X-Ray, Gamma-Ray Instruments (SBIR)


Lead Center: JPL        

Participating Center(s): GSFC, MSFC        

Technology Area: 8.0.0 Science Instruments, Observatories & Sensor Systems        

Related Subtopic Pointer(s): S1.12 S2.02 S1.07 S1.11

Scope Title

Scope Description

This subtopic covers detector requirements for a broad range of wavelengths from ultraviolet (UV) through to gamma ray for applications in Astrophysics, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science. Requirements across the board are for greater numbers of readout pixels, lower power, faster readout rates, greater quantum efficiency, single photon counting, and enhanced energy resolution.

The proposed efforts must be directly linked to a requirement for a NASA mission. These include Explorers, Discovery, Cosmic Origins, Physics of the Cosmos, Solar-Terrestrial Probes, Vision Missions, and Earth Science Decadal Survey missions. Proposals should reference current NASA missions and mission concepts where relevant. Specific technology areas are:

  • Large-format, solid-state single photon counting radiation tolerant detectors in charge-coupled device (CCD) or Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) architecture, including 3D stacked architecture, for astrophysics, planetary, and UV heliophysics missions
  • Solid-state detectors with polarization sensitivity relevant to astrophysics as well as planetary and Earth science applications for example in spectropolarimetry
  • Significant improvement in wide band gap semiconductor materials (such as AlGaN, ZnMgO and SiC), individual detectors and detector arrays for astrophysics missions and planetary science composition measurements. For example, SiC Avalanche Photodiodes (APDs) must show: EUV photon counting, a linear mode gain > 10E6 at a breakdown reverse voltage between 80 and 100 V; detection capability of better than 6 photons/pixel/s down to 135 nm wavelength. See needs of National Research Council's Earth Science Decadal Survey (NRC, 2007): Tropospheric ozone.
  • Solar-blind (visible-blind) UV, far-UV (80-200 nm), EUV sensor technology with high pixel resolution, large format, high sensitivity and high dynamic range, low voltage and power requirements; with or without photon counting.
  • UV detectors suitable for upcoming Ultrahigh-Energy Cosmic Ray (UHECR) mission concepts
  • Solar X-ray detectors with small independent pixels (<250 µm) and fast read-out (>10,000 count/s/pixel) over an energy range from <5 keV to 300 keV.
  • Supporting technologies that would help enable X-ray Surveyor mission that requires the development of X-ray microcalorimeter arrays with much larger field of view, ~105-106 pixels, of pitch ~25-100 µm, and ways to read out the signals. For example, modular superconducting magnetic shielding is sought that can be extended to enclose a full-scale focal plane array. All joints between segments of the shielding enclosure must also be superconducting.
  • Improved long-wavelength blocking filters are needed for large-area, X-ray microcalorimeters. Filters with supporting grids are sought that, in addition to increasing filter strength, also enhance EMI shielding (1 - 10 GHz) and thermal uniformity for decontamination heating. X-ray transmission of greater than 80% at 600 eV per filter is sought, with infrared transmissions less than 0.01% and ultraviolet transmission of less than 5% per filter. Means of producing filter diameters as large as 10 cm should be considered.
  • Detectors with fast readout that can support high count rates and large incident flux from the extreme UV (EUV) and X-Rays for heliophysics applications, especially solar-flare measurements.


Expected TRL or TRL range at completion of the project: 3 to 5

Desired Deliverables of Phase II

Prototype, Analysis, Hardware, Research

Desired Deliverables Description

Results of tests and analysis of designs and/or prototype hardware. Hardware for further testing and evaluation.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps

This subtopic aims to develop and advance detector technologies focused on ultraviolet, x-ray, gamma ray spectral range. The science needs in this range spans a number of fields with main focus on astrophysics, planetary science, and UV heliophysics. A number of solid-state detector technologies promise to surpass the traditional image-tube based detectors. Silicon-based detectors leverage enormous investments and promise high performance detectors while more complex material such as gallium nitride and silicon carbide offer intrinsic solar blind response. This subtopic supports efforts to advance technologies that significantly improve the efficiency, dynamic range, noise, radiation tolerance, spectral selectivity, reliability, and manufacturability in detectors.


Relevance / Science Traceability

Flagship missions under study: Large Ultraviolet Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR), Habitable Exoplanet Observatory (HabEx), Lynx, New Frontier-IO,

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government