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Sofradir Designs its First Supersize Near Infrared Detector for Space Observation Programs

Submitted By: 

Neha Rastogi
Sofradir, a leading developer, and manufacturer of key classes of advanced infrared (IR) detectors has recently unveiled its first supersize near infrared detector in 15-micron pitch. Labeled as the ALFA, the detector is a 2048x 2048 15µm pixel switch SWIR unit. 
This supersize detector is being designed to meet new performance needs for future ESA scientific space missions and for instruments used in state-of-the-art Extremely Large Telescopes (ELT) for ground observation so as to tackle major scientific challenges.
The ALFA 2Kx2K (Astronomy Large Focal Array) 15µm pitch short-wave infrared detector will render the highest levels of performance in Quantum Efficiency (QE), dark current, and noise in order to optimize IR observations for astrophysicists.
In order to develop the ALFA near-infrared detector through an ESA initiative, the company is collaborating with leading French research centers CEA-Leti in Grenoble and CEA-IRFU in Paris. The plan is to deliver a fully characterized low-flux, low-noise ALFA prototype in Q1 2019. 
Large format infrared detectors exceeding 1024x1024 are highly complex devices which can be produced to space-grade standards by a handful of manufacturers. 
This new low-flux, low-noise near infrared (NIR) 2Kx2K detector for space astrophysics is the result of developments the ESA-initiated several years ago under its Near Infrared Large Format Sensor Array (NIRLFA) program. Sofradir, CEA-Leti, and CEA-IRFU have been working on this program since 2009.
The NIR detector is based on a compound semiconductor material, mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe), as the absorbing material.  It includes a readout circuit (ROIC) with a source follower per detector (SFD) at the input stage. 
The development of the detector will benefit from Sofradir’s experience as one of the leading worldwide manufacturers of IR detectors deployed in space; totaling more than 82 flight models to date.
About Sofradir
Sofradir is the leading developer and manufacturer of key classes of advanced infrared (IR) detectors for military, space, scientific and industrial applications. Its vast IR product portfolio covers the entire spectrum from visible and near infrared to very far infrared. 
Sofradir pioneers developments in cooled IR detectors based on a sophisticated high-performance technology: Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT), to which Sofradir has added Indium Antimonide (InSb), Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs) and Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP) technologies.
Many of the world’s system makers use Sofradir’s military-grade, battlefield-proven IR detectors for missile seekers, targeting pods, armored vehicle sights, handheld thermal imagers and other airborne, naval and ground vehicle applications. Sofradir is the leading European manufacturer of IR detectors deployed in space.