Center for Detectors

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Center director Donald Figer is best known for this 1997 false-color image of the Pistol star and nebula.

The Center for Detectors (CfD) is a Rochester Institute of Technology College of Science academic research center. The CfD was founded in 2010 by Dr. Donald Figer. Located in the IT Collaboratory at RIT, the CfD designs, develops, and implements new advanced sensor technologies through collaboration with academic researchers, industry engineers, government scientists, and university students. The mission of the CfD is to enable scientific discovery, national security, better living, and commercial innovation through the design and development of advanced photon detectors and associated technology in a broad array of applications (e.g. astrophysics, biomedical imaging, Earth system science, and inter-planetary travel).


Color image of M13, the Great Cluster in Hercules, taken by CfD personnel using the Teledyne Hawaii 4RG SiPIN detector (HyViSI). This was the first demonstration of this device in an astronomical application.

The CfD uses a multi-disciplinary approach, spanning the many branches of engineering, imaging science, physics and astronomy,.. Some projects, such as the “High Mass Initial Mass Function” project, incorporate astronomy and imaging science. Others, like the NASA-funded LIDAR Imaging Detector project, unite microelectronic engineers, astronomy experts, imaging scientists, and various other professionals in science fields. The Center for Detectors benefits from employees that come from a diverse range of academic programs and professional occupations. The CfD staff includes professors, engineers, and students (undergraduate, masters, and PhD). Many student researchers apply CfD research to their current academic programs at RIT. Students pursue various degrees such as Microelectronic, Computer, and Electrical Engineering. Many undergraduate student researchers choose to pursue master's degrees based on the research that they conduct at CfD.[1][2]

CfD is grant-funded and has received millions of dollars in external funding. Primary sponsors include NASA and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Additional sources of funding include the National Science Foundation, BAE Systems, the Spitzer Science Center, the Herschel Science Center, and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Outreach and Communications[edit]

Education supplements to two of the CfD grants have funded projects involving students from local high schools. Students mapped the “Journey of a Photon,” and presented their work at venues nationwide. A second group of high school students used an RIT-developed 3D projection system dubbed the “Planeterrainium” to explore planetary surfaces in 3D.

The Center has been featured at several conferences and in press venues. CfD researcher Kim Kolb presented her MS thesis at the SPIE Optics and Photonics Conferences. The Rochester Business Journal and RIT University News have published articles summarizing the foundations of the Center for Detectors to the public, and informing the RIT community about the purpose of the facilities.

CfD has hosted a variety of distinguished speakers as well. Some presenters include Dr. Donald Hall of the University of Hawaii, Dr. Chris Packham of the University of Florida, Dr. Joss Bland-Hawthorn of the University of Sydney, Bruce Tromberg, of the University of California, Irvine, and Dr. Shouleh Nikzad, Dr. Michael Hoenk, and Bedabrata Pain of the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Cross-RIT Collaboration[edit]

The RIT environment allows the CfD to collaborate with other areas of the college. In the spring of 2011, seniors from RIT’s School of Design collaborated with the CfD for their senior design projects. The students toured the Center’s existing facilities, and proposed ideas to redesign lab and office spaces. College of Business student Shivam Bansal and professor Richard Notargiacomo worked with the CfD in 2011 as well. The team developed a report benchmarking the CfD against similar research centers across various dimensions such as vision and mission, industrial relationships, online presence, brand image, organizational structure, overhead costs, and funding. [3]

Equipment and Facilities[edit]

The Center's detector testing system uses custom-built cylindrical vacuum cryogenic dewars.

The Center has four research labs: the Rochester Imaging Detector Laboratory, the Quantum Dot Detector Laboratory, the Clean Room Probe Testing Laboratory, and the LIDAR Laboratory. Three test systems were designed at the CfD, which are essential to the lab’s detector-testing capabilities.

This laser spot projector is used in the Center for Detectors. The system is mounted on a 3D motorized stage that produces a small point source for measurements of intrapixel sensitivity.

The Center also has access to other RIT facilities, including the Center for Electronics Manufacturing and Assembly, which specializes in semiconductor chip packaging, printed circuit board assemblies, and electronics/optoelectronics systems, and the Brinkman Manufacturing Lab, which provides machining support for in-house fabrications.

Detector Virtual Workshop[edit]

The CfD is the host of the “Detector Virtual Workshop.” The workshop started in September 2011, and is a year-long program dedicated to the advancement of UV/O/IR detectors. The objective of the workshop is to enable future detector capabilities by disseminating knowledge, increasing interdisciplinary opportunities, enhancing interactions between academia, industry, and government, and providing student and professional training opportunities. There is a particular emphasis on informing the scientific community of potential detector developments in the next ten years for next-generation observing platforms. The workshop will culminate in a report that summarizes promising detector developments.

An organizing committee selects speakers who can deliver material to support the objectives of the workshop, especially those with the ability to present the most promising detector technology developments. The talks are given approximately twice per month, one at RIT and the other at the speaker’s home institution. The talks are delivered to audiences around the world through RIT’s Adobe Connect streaming audio/video facility, and they are recorded and archived for later public use.[4][5][6]

Quantum-Limited Imaging Detector Symposium[edit]

On March 2–3, 2009, RIT hosted scientists and researchers from academia, government, and industry to advance the field of quantum-limited imaging detectors through the Quantum-Limited Imaging Detector Symposium.

Experts from a broad range of fields shared critical application needs and new technology developments that could help to address those needs. Presenters included Andrew Berger of The The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, Tim Tredwell of Carestream Health, Jim Beletic of Teledyne Imaging Sensors, Jeff Puschell of Ratheon Space and Airborne Systems, Dan Newman of ITT, and Brian Aull of Lincoln Laboratory.[7][8]

Through collaborative breakout groups, participants identified key activities to enable the realization of quantum-limited detectors.


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