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Centre for Advanced Instrumentation

Kinetic Inductance Detectors

Kinetic Inductance Detectors (KIDs) are a novel superconducting detector technology that promise to be the next revolution in detector technology for astronomy. In the UV/Optical/IR (UVOIR) regime each pixel has the intrinsic ability to deliver read-noise free, low-resolution spectroscopy by measuring the arrival time and energy of individual photons. However, KIDs are not just sensitive at UVOIR wavelengths, they have rapidly become the detector of choice in the sub-mm regime, where the potential array sizes and multichroic capabilities are again displacing more traditional detectors. The key advantage of KIDs over similar superconducting detectors, such as Super-conducting Tunnel Junctions devices (STJ) and Transition Edge Sensors (TES) is that they can be easily multiplexed into large arrays.

In 2011, as part of the Mazin Lab team based at UCSB, we performed the first on-sky demonstration of KIDs in an astronomical camera. The Array Camera for Optical and Near-infrared Spectrophotometry (ARCONS) uses a 2024 pixel array of KIDs and has performed science observations of a range of objects, including pulsars and compact binary systems. Since that time a number of science instruments have been designed focussing on the application of KIDs to the field of direct imaging of extra-solar planets.

The development of KIDs and the associated instrumentation is still at an early stage compared to semi-conductor based imaging technologies, such as CCDs and HgCdTe arrays, where decades of industrial development has pushed the detectors to their limits. However, the field is growing rapid as are the quality and size of the arrays. This is matched by the potential applications both insideof astronomy, as well as remote sensing, medical imaging, and security applications.

In astronomy, as well as the currently demonstrated direct imaging of extrasolar planets, there are applications for (amongst others) time-domain astronomy, large red-shift surveys and observations of extrmemely faint objects such as those in the high redshift Universe.