NASA SBIR 2020-II Solicitation

Proposal Summary

Proposal Information

Proposal Number:
20-2- S1.05-6061
Phase 1 Contract #:
Subtopic Title:
Detector Technologies for UV, X-Ray, Gamma-Ray Instruments
Proposal Title:
Novel, Deep-UV APDs for Atomic Clocks and Space Observation

Small Business Concern

Adroit Materials
2054 Kildaire Farm Rd., Suite 205, Cary, NC 27518
(919) 515-8637                                                                                                                                                                                

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Ronny Kirste
2054 Kildaire Farm Rd., Suite 205, 27518 - 6614
(919) 515-8637                                                                                                                                                                                

Business Official:

Zlatko Sitar
2054 Kildaire Farm Rd., Suite 205, NC 27518 - 6614
(919) 515-8637                                                                                                                                                                                

Summary Details:

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :                                                                                                                                                          
Begin: 4
End: 6
Technical Abstract (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words):

The target of this project is to develop a compact and efficient avalanche photodiode (APD) based on Al rich AlGaN to replace incumbent photomultiplier tubes in atomic clocks. The advance over existing approaches is the implementation of single crystal AlN as substrates, which practically eliminates leakage induced by screw dislocations as seen in abundance in thin films of AlGaN grown on traditionally employed foreign substrates such as sapphire and SiC. This enables unprecedented high gain and low noise for the UV detectors. We aim to demonstrate sensitivity over the whole far UV range (120 – 240 nm) while being solar and visible blind. We will provide single APDs as well as detector arrays with varying pixel resolution and pixel size. The devices will exhibit very high sensitivity (> 40%) and dynamic range with sub-200 V operation. Furthermore, we will demonstrate operation in Geiger mode which enables single photon detection in the UV range. In addition, we aim to demonstrate high linear gains and avalanche operation by employing the improbability of hole ionization for Al molar fractions exceeding 80%. Our proposal aims to demonstrate significant improvement in AlGaN based detectors. When implemented into Hg based atomic clocks, as developed in the deep space atomic clocks program, the novel APDs can lead to a significant improvement of the stability and lifetime, while at the same time reducing volume and constraints to the accompanying electronic circuitry. Beyond application for atomic clock the far UV APDs could be used for space observation such as proposed in LUVOIR, for plume detection, or for bio-chem detection applications.

Potential NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words):

We will develop solar blind avalanche photodiodes with sensitivity in the deep-UV to replace currently-used photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) in atomic clocks being developed for the deep space program. These new detectors will be smaller, more stable, lighter, and have longer lifetime than PMTs. The novel detector will also be arranged in large 2D arrays, which will enable application for space observation such as proposed in LUVOIR, for plume detection, and for bio-chem detection applications.

Potential Non-NASA Applications (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words):

UVC sensitive APDs are widely sought after for many technological applications. After high gain and high sensitivity is demonstrated, the solar blindness of the devices and the potential to arrange the detectors in arrays will lead to many novel applications. UVC sensitive APDs are considered an enabling technology and will find implementation for: bio-chem, fire, plume, trace element detection.

Duration:     24

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