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Dark current (physics)

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In physics and in electronic engineering, dark current is the relatively small electric current that flows through photosensitive devices such as a photomultiplier tube, photodiode, or charge-coupled device even when no photons enter the device; it consists of the charges generated in the detector when no outside radiation is entering the detector. It is referred to as reverse bias leakage current in non-optical devices and is present in all diodes. Physically, dark current is due to the random generation of electrons and holes within the depletion region of the device.[1]

Dark current is one of the main sources for noise in image sensors such as charge-coupled devices. The pattern of different dark currents can result in a fixed-pattern noise; dark frame subtraction can remove an estimate of the mean fixed pattern, but there still remains a temporal noise, because the dark current itself has a shot noise.


  1. ^ Allam, J.; Capasso, F.; Alavi, K.; Cho, A.Y. (January 1987). "Near-single carrier-type multiplication in a multiple graded-well structure for a solid-state photomultiplier". IEEE Electron Device Letters. 8 (1): 4–6. doi:10.1109/EDL.1987.26531. ISSN 0741-3106.