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Detectors. RIT Course Number 1051-465 Lecture CCDs . Aims for this lecture. To describe the basic CCD physical principles operation and performance of CCDs Given modern examples of CCDs . CCD Introduction. A CCD is a two-dimensional array of metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) capacitors.

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Detectors l.jpg


RIT Course Number 1051-465

Lecture CCDs

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Aims for this lecture

  • To describe the basic CCD

    • physical principles

    • operation

    • and performance of CCDs

  • Given modern examples of CCDs

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CCD Introduction

  • A CCD is a two-dimensional array of metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) capacitors.

  • The charges are stored in the depletion region of the MOS capacitors.

  • Charges are moved in the CCD circuit by manipulating the voltages on the gates of the capacitors so as to allow the charge to spill from one capacitor to the next (thus the name “charge-coupled” device).

  • An amplifier provides an output voltage that can be processed.

  • The CCD is a serial device where charge packets are read one at a time.

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CCD Physics

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  • A conductor allows for the flow of electrons in the presence of an electric field.

  • An insulator inpedes the flow of electrons.

  • A semiconductor becomes a conductor if the electrons are excited to high enough energies, otherwise it is an insulator.

    • allows for a “switch” which can be on or off

    • allows for photo-sensitive circuits (photon absorption adds energy to electron)

  • Minimum energy to elevate an electron into conduction is the “band gap energy”

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Periodic Table

  • Semiconductors occupy column IV of the Periodic Table

  • Outer shells have four empty valence states

  • An outer shell electron can leave the shell if it absorbs enough energy

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Simplified silicon band diagram

Conduction band

Eg bandgap

Valence band

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Semiconductor Dopants

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PN Junctions

  • In a PN junction, positively charged holes diffuse into the n-type material. Likewise, negatively charged electrons diffuse in the the p-type material.

  • This process is halted by the resulting E-field.

  • The affected volume is known as a “depletion region”.

  • The charge distribution in the depletion region is electrically equivalent to a 2-plate capacitor.

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A photon can interact with the semiconductor to create an electron-hole pair.

The electron will be drawn to the most positively charged zone in the PN junction, located in the depletion region in the n-type material.

Likewise, the positively charged hole will seek the most negatively charged region.

Each photon thus removes one unit of charge from the capacitor. This is how photons are detected in both CCDs and most IR arrays.

Photon detection in PN junctions

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MOS Capacitor Geometry

  • A Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (MOS) capacitor has a potential difference between two metal plates separated by an insulartor.

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Surface Channel Potential Well

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Potential in MOS Capacitor

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CCD Readout

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“Bucket Brigade”

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CCD Readout Animation

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CCD Readout Alternate Animation

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Image area

(exposed to light)

Parallel (vertical) registers

Charge motion


Serial (horizontal) register

Output amplifier

Charge motion

masked area

(not exposed to light)

CCD Readout Architecture Terms

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CCD Clocking

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p-type silicon

n-type silicon

CCD Phased Clocking: Introduction

Photons entering the CCD create electron-hole pairs. The electrons are then attracted towards the most positive potential in the device where they create ‘charge packets’. Each packet corresponds to one pixel







Electrode Structure

Charge packet

SiO2 Insulating layer

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CCD Phased Clocking: Step 1

Time-slice shown in diagram

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CCD Phased Clocking: Step 2

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CCD Phased Clocking: Step 3

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CCD Phased Clocking: Step 4

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CCD Phased Clocking: Step 5

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CCD Phased Clocking: Summary

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CCD output circuit

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CCD Readout Layout

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CCD Readout Device

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CCD Readout Device Closeup

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CCD Enhancements

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Buried channel CCD

  • Surface channel CCDs shift charge along a thin layer in the semiconductor that is just below the oxide insulator.

  • This layer has crystal irregularities which can trap charge, causing loss of charge and image smear.

  • If there is a layer of n-doped silicon above the p-doped layer, and a voltage bias is applied between the layers, the storage region will be deep within the depletion region.

  • This is called a buried-channel CCD, and it suffers much less from charge trapping.

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Buried Channel Potential Well

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Back Side Illumination

  • As described to now, the CCDs are illuminated through the electrodes. Electrodes are semi-transparent, but some losses occur, and they are non-uniform losses, so the sensitivity will vary within one pixel. The “fill factor” will be less than one.

  • Solution is to illuminate the CCD from the back side.

  • This requires thinning the CCD, either by mechanical machining or chemical etching, to about 15μm.

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Photon Propogation in Thinned Device


Incoming photons

p-type silicon

n-type silicon

Silicon dioxide insulating layer


Polysilicon electrodes

Anti-reflective (AR) coating

Incoming photons

p-type silicon

n-type silicon

Silicon dioxide insulating layer

Polysilicon electrodes

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Random Walk in Field-Free Thick Device

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Sweep Field

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Short l QE Improvement from Thinning

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CCD Performance

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CCD Performance Categories

  • Charge generation

    Quantum Efficiency (QE), Dark Current

  • Charge collection

    full well capacity, pixels size, pixel uniformity,

    defects, diffusion (Modulation Transfer

    Function, MTF)

  • Charge transfer

    Charge transfer efficiency (CTE),


  • Charge detection

    Readout Noise (RON), linearity

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Photon Absorption Length in Si

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Well Capacity

  • Well capacity is defined as the maximum charge that can be held in a pixel.

  • “Saturation” is the term that describes when a pixel has accumulated the maximum amount of charge that it can hold.

  • The “full well” capacity in a CCD is typically a few hundred thousand electrons per pixel for today’s technologies.

  • A rough rule of thumb is that well capacity is about 10,000 electrons/um2.

  • The following gives a typical example (for a surface channel CCD).

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Well Capacity and Blooming









charge packet



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Blooming Example

Bloomed star images

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Read-Out Noise

  • Read noise is mainly due to Johnson noise in amplifier.

  • This noise can be reduced by reducing the bandwidth, but this requires that readout is slower.

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Defects: Dark Columns

Dark columns: caused by ‘traps’ that block the vertical transfer of charge during image readout.

Traps can be caused by crystal boundaries in the silicon of the CCD or by manufacturing defects.

Although they spoil the chip cosmetically, dark columns are not a big problem (removed by calibration).

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Defects: Bright Columns

Bright columns are also caused by traps . Electrons contained in such traps can leak out during readout causing a vertical streak.

Hot Spots are pixels with higher than normal dark current. Their brightness increases linearly with exposure times

Somewhat rarer are light-emitting defects which are hot spots that act as tiny LEDS and cause a halo of light on the chip.



Cluster of

Hot Spots

Cosmic rays

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Charge Transfer Efficiency

CTE = Charge Transfer Efficiency (typically 0.9999 to 0.999999)

= fraction of electrons transferred from one pixel to the next

CTI = Charge Transfer Inefficiency = 1 – CTE (typically 10– 6 to 10– 4)

= fraction of electrons deferred by one pixel or more

Cause of CTI:

charges are trapped (and later released) by defects in the silicon crystal lattice

CTE of 0.99999 used to be thought of as pretty good but ….

Think of a 9K x 9K CCD

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Charge Transfer Efficiency

  • When the wells are nearly empty, charge can be trapped by impurities in the silicon. So faint images can have tails in the vertical direction.

  • Modern CCDs can have a charge transfer efficiency (CTE) per transfer of 0.9999995, so after 2000 transfers only 0.1% of the charge is lost.

good CTE

bad CTE

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X-ray events with charge smearing in an

irradiated CCD (from GAIA-LU-TN01)

In the simplest picture (“linear CTI”) part of the

original image is smeared with an exponential

decay function, producing “tails”:

original image

after n transfers

direction of charge transfer

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Deferred Charge vs. CTE and Size

  • Percentage of charge which is really transferred.

  • “n” 9s: five 9s = 99.99999%

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Dark Current

  • Dark current is generated when thermal effects cause an electron to move from the valence band to the conduction band.

  • The majority of dark current is created near the interface between the Si and the SiO2, where interface states at energy between the valence and conduction bands act as a stepping stone for electrons.

  • CCDs can be operated at temperatures of around 140K, to reduce thermal effects.

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Dark Current vs. Temperature

  • Thermally generated electrons are indistinguishable from photo-generated electrons : “Dark Current” (noise)

  • Cool the CCD down!!!

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Linearity and Saturation

  • Typically the full well capacity of a CCD pixel 25 μm square is 500,000 electrons. If the charge in the well exceeds about 80% of this value the response will be non-linear. If it exceeds this value charge will spread through the barrier phase to surrounding pixels.

  • This charge blooming occurs mainly vertically, as there is little horizontal bleeding because of the permanent doped channel stops.

  • Readout register pixels are larger, so there is less saturation effect in the readout register.

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CCD readout noise

  • Reset noise: there is a noise associated with recharging the output storage capacitor, given by σreset=  (kTC) where C is the output capacitance in Farads. Surface state noise, due to fast interface states which absorb and release charges on short timescales.

  • This is removed by correlated double sampling, where the reset voltage is measured after reset and again after readout. The first value is subtracted from the second, as this voltage will not change.

  • The output Field Effect Transistor also contributes noise. This is the ultimate limit to the readout noise, at a level of 2-3 electrons

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Other noise sources

  • Fixed pattern noise. The sensitivity of pixels is not the same, for reasons such as differences in thickness, area of electrodes, doping. However these differences do not change, and can be calibrated out by dividing by a flat field, which is an exposure of a uniform light source.

  • Bias noise. The bias voltage applied to the substrate causes an offset in the signal, which can vary from pixel to pixel. This can be removed by subtracting the average of a number of bias frames, which are readouts of zero exposure frames. Modern CCDs rarely display any fixed pattern bias noise.

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Interference Fringes

  • In thinned CCDs there are interference effects caused by multiple reflections within the silicon layer, or within the resin which holds the CCD to a glass plate to flatten it.

  • These effects are classical thin film interference (Newton’s rings).

  • Only visible if there is strong line radiation in the passband, either in the object or in the sky background.

  • Visible in the sky at wavelengths > 700nm.

  • Corrected by dividing by a scaled exposure of blank sky.

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Examples of fringing

Fringing on H1RG SiPIN device at 980nm

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CCD Examples

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First astronomical CCD image

1974 on an 8” telescope

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CCD in a Dual-Inline Package

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CCDs and mosaics

4096 x 2048 3 edge buttable CCD

Canada-France-Hawaii telescope 12k x8k mosaic

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40 CCDs, 377 Mpixels, CFHT

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CCD Science Applications

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Large CCD Mosaics

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The LSST Camera

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The LSST Focal Plane

Wavefront Sensors (4 locations)

Guide Sensors (8 locations)

3.5 degree Field of View (634 mm diameter)

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