Medical imaging is one application that could benefit from an advance in silicon photomultiplier technology developed by Royal Philips Electronics. The company recently announced that it had scaled a single-pixel sensor into a fully integrated 64-pixel sensor with a sensing surface greater than 10 square centimetres. In addition to medical imaging, the fully scalable photomultiplier technology opens the door to new applications in life science instrumentation and nuclear physics, says Rob Ballizany, Vice President of Philips and General Manager of Philips Digital Photon Counting. “With this new technology, we intend to bring the digital revolution to any application where ultra-low light levels need to be measured,” he says.
Capable of counting single photons and detecting their arrival time with an accuracy of around 60 picoseconds, Philips’ new digital silicon photomultiplier technology will allow faster and more accurate photon counting in a range of applications where large-area ultra-low light detection is required. Details of Philips’ new prototype 64-pixel sensor will be presented for the first time at this year’s IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium and Medical Imaging Conference currently underway in Knoxville, TN, USA. The symposium ends on 6 November.
The technology features digital detection of photon-induced avalanche breakdown in each individual photodiode, together with on-chip photon counting and time-stamping logic that eliminates the bulky power-consuming A/D circuitry associated with existing analogue silicon photomultipliers. It offers the “solid-state” alternative to large-area sensors using photomultiplier tubes, says the company.
Philips’ digital silicon photomultiplier technology has an industry-leading performance in terms of its speed, light detection efficiency and dark count. Other important features include its robustness, low power consumption (the prototype 8 x 8 pixel array consumes less than 1 W), insensitivity to magnetic fields and very high level of integration in the optical detection and associated read-out circuitry.
Philips is actively looking for partners in selected applications to fully exploit the market potential of its new digital silicon photomultiplier technology.