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Proceedings ArticleDOI

P2M: A 2MPixel CMOS Image Sensor for Soft X-Ray Detection

01 Nov 2019-pp 506-509

Abstract: High brilliance synchrotrons and Free Electron Lasers (FELs) require high performing detector systems to realise their full potential. High dynamic range, low noise and high frame rate are all of great importance. In this paper we describe the P2M CMOS sensor, designed for soft X-ray detection at such facilities. We refer to previous work on test devices demonstrating a noise of 5Me- and quantum efficiency of >80% at 400eV (and with good sensitivity even below this value). Initial test results on the first Front Side Illuminated (FSI) 2 Megapixel device are also presented, and an outline of future work is described.
Topics: CMOS sensor (57%), Image sensor (52%), High dynamic range (52%), Noise (electronics) (51%), Detector (51%)

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P2M: A 2MPixel CMOS Image Sensor for Soft
X-Ray Detection
I Sedgwick
, N Guerrini
, B Marsh
, T Nicholls
, A Marras
, CB Wunderer
, J Correa
, S Lange
, M Kuhn
, F Krivan
I Shevyakov
, M Zimmer
, H Graafsma
, G Cautero
, D Giuressi
, R Menk
, G. Pinaroli
, L. Stebel
, A Greer
, U
, N Tartoni
, SY Rah
, HJ Hyun
, KS Kim
, SH Kim
, B Boitrelle
, F Orsini
a - Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UKRI – STFC, Didcot, UK
b - DESY, Hamburg, Germany
c - Elettra Sincrotrone, Trieste, Italy
d - Diamond Light Source, Didcot, UK
e - Pohang Accelerator Laboratory, Pohang, South Korea
f - Synchrotron SOLEIL, Saint-Aubin, France
Abstract High brilliance synchrotrons and Free Electron
Lasers (FELs) require high performing detector systems to
realise their full potential. High dynamic range, low noise and
high frame rate are all of great importance. In this paper we
describe the P2M CMOS sensor, designed for soft X-ray
detection at such facilities. We refer to previous work on test
devices demonstrating a noise of <16e-, a full well capacity of
>5Me- and quantum efficiency of >80% at 400eV (and with good
sensitivity even below this value). Initial test results on the first
Front Side Illuminated (FSI) 2 Megapixel device are also
presented, and an outline of future work is described.
Keywords— CMOS, PERCIVAL, Image Sensor, Soft X-ray,
PTC, Column-parallel ADC
Detector systems for modern X-ray sources (such as 3rd
generation synchrotrons and FELs) have high specifications,
which have continued to grow as the capabilities of these
machines have increased. Brilliance in particular has risen
considerably [1], requiring detectors with very high dynamic
range or full well capabilities to cope with peak signals.
Achieving a high dynamic range however, must not come at
the cost of good noise performance, which is required to allow
the detection of signals down to the level of a single X-ray
photon. Modern synchrotrons and FELs also have high
repetition rates, requiring high frame rates from the equivalent
detectors. Large area coverage is also required, which brings
challenges in both reading out a larger sensor at high speed,
and in delivering good production yield for large sensors. In
this paper, we describe a sensor designed to meet these needs.
To meet the requirements outlined in the introduction, our
goal was to design a sensor with the specifications in Table I.
Target Specifications
Specification Unit Value
Noise e- 15
Full Well Me- 5
Frame Rate fps 120
Energy Range eV
250 -
Quantum Efficiency % >80
Output N/A
A complex detector system such as this is built from many
components. In this paper we will focus mainly on the CMOS
sensor itself, but it should be noted that this is controlled and
read out by a complex camera system as shown in Figure 1.
Fig. 1. The PERCIVAL Camera System
The camera system is comprised of the following components:
A supporting circuit board for the sensor
A power board which generates power supplies and
978-1-7281-0996-1/19/$31.00 ©2019 IEEE 506

A carrier board which provides control signals and
reads out data through a plug-in “mezzanine board”
Data storage and control though the ODIN Data
Acquisition (DAQ) system.
A top-level overview of the sensor is shown in Figure 2.
Fig. 2. The PERCIVAL Sensor
As can be seen from the diagram, the sensor is composed of the
following components:
A High Dynamic Range Pixel of the Lateral Overflow
(LOFIC) type [2].
Circuitry which permits seven rows to be read in
parallel to allow high frame rates to be achieved.
A “Multiple Gain Handling” block. This allows the
sensor to determine which of the pixel’s overflow
capacitors contains useful data and only pass this data
to the ADC.
A dual-slope ADC for data conversion.
A high speed serialiser for data output. This also
contains an LVDS line driver.
Some of these blocks are described in more detail in the
following section.
In this section we provide some details of the various circuit
blocks in the sensor.
A. Pixel
The pixel is of the LOFIC type as shown in Figure 3. C0 is
chosen to be larger than the diode capacitance and C1 to be
larger than C0.
Fig. 3. The PERCIVAL pixel
In operation, the diode, C0 and C1 are reset to VRST using
the transistor M3. M4 and M5 are biased near their threshold
voltage. When illuminated, photo-generated charge carriers
accumulate on the diode, reducing its voltage. Once the diode
voltage has fallen low enough to turn on M4, further photo-
generated carriers reduce the voltage on C0. Once illumination
is complete, each diode and capacitor can be read out in turn.
This allows small signals (which accumulate only on the
diode) to be read out with a high conversion gain (and hence
low read noise), whilst large signals can still be accumulated on
larger capacitors, leading to a high dynamic range.
Further improvement in noise performance for the high
conversion gain mode is achieved by making use of Correlated
Double Sampling (CDS). This removes kTC noise introduced
when resetting the pixel. This is done by reading the pixel
value after reset, and again after the signal has been collected.
Subtracting these values cancels the kTC noise. This technique
is only effective when reading in high conversion gain mode,
as reading twice increases the noise contribution from the
readout chain to the total noise by a factor of √2. In high
conversion gain mode, the input referred effect of this is less
than the removed kTC noise, so a net benefit is achieved. For
lower conversion gains, the extra readout noise contribution
dominates the removed kTC noise, leading to no net gain.
B. Multiple Gain Handling
Having accumulated charges in this manner, it is necessary
to determine which of the set of diodes and capacitors is non-
saturated and thus contains information to be passed to the
ADC. This is done by reading each of the Diode, C0 and C1 in
turn, and then using a comparator to compare each to a
threshold. The first which is above threshold is determined to
be non-saturated and is passed to the ADC for conversion as
shown in Figure 4. Each of the pixel gains is coded as a two bit
binary value, and the value corresponding to the selected gain
is stored and output together with the result of the ADC
conversion so that the DAQ system is aware which gain has
been selected. The sampling stage also contains a
Programmable Gain Amplifier (PGA) to reduce input referred
noise from the ADC.

Signal from Pixel
Signal to ADC
Gain Amplifier
Fig. 4. Multiple Gain Handling Circuitry
The ADC is a dual-slope type, which performs a 5 bit
coarse conversion followed by an 8 bit fine conversion leading
to a 13 bit overall result. The schematic is shown in Figure 5
Fig. 5. ADC schematic
When performing an ADC conversion, the ADC is first put in
coarse conversion mode, and a switched current charges the
sample in large discrete steps until a threshold is reached. The
fine phase is then started, and a smaller current is used to
discharge the sample node until the threshold is again reached.
During each phase, the charge and discharge are timed by a
clock, which is used to clock a counter and generate the digital
result. Figure 6 shows this process.
Fine counter
Fig. 6. Effect of ADC conversion phase on sampled voltage
D. High Speed Data Output
Data is transmitted off-chip by means of 45 LVDS data
lines running at 420 Mbit/s Double Data Rate. Data is provided
to the LVDS lines by means of a digital serialiser operated by a
240 MHz clock. This clock is generated from a slower input
clock by means of a PLL, which steps up the input by 16x.
Several test structures were completed prior to the
fabrication of a large scale device, and their performance has
been previously reported [3]. The first 2 MPixel chips are now
available and testing of Front Side Illuminated (FSI) devices is
underway, with some results already reported [4]. Figure 7
shows an image of the device connected to its camera system
and undergoing testing.
Fig. 7. The sensor mounted on the supporting LTCC and undergoing testing
Here we report some of the first results from this
A. ADC and PGA Testing
The readout chain can be tested independently from the
pixel by holding the reset transistor M3 on. The PGA can be
operated with a gain of 1, 4 or 6. The readout chain was tested
in this manner, and Figure 8 shows some example output traces
with the PGA in Gain 6 for several columns. Table II reports
the results of the tests.
Fig. 8. Example ADC traces for a nominal PGA gain of 6

Specification Unit Gain 1 Gain 4 Gain 6
Average Gain V/V -2050 -7775 -10943
Average Noise
902 419 422
B. Optical Testing by Photon Transfer Curve
Following characterization of the readout chain,
characterization of the pixel and optical response was
undertaken by means of the Photon Transfer Curve (PTC)
method. Characterization was first carried out for the diode
with the PGA configured in Gain 1 and Gain 6. Gain 1 results
are acquired without the use of Correlated Double Sampling
(CDS) which, as explained previously, is only effective in the
highest conversion gain mode. Gain 6 results use CDS. Results
are reported in Table III.
Specification Unit
Value (PGA
Value (PGA
Gain 6)
Maximum Full Well ke- 53.7 6.6
Linear Full Well ke- 52.5 4.7
Gain ADU/e- 0.067 0.394
Noise e- 49.8 15.9
These results give the performance from the high
conversion gain part of the pixel. Testing has also been carried
out on the low conversion gain section (i.e. the capacitors) and
the results are reported in Table IV. These results are all taken
with the PGA bypassed. The diode parameters were re-
measured at the same time to allow easy comparison. From this
table and Table III, the importance of the LOFIC system in
achieving high dynamic range performance can be clearly seen.
Low noise for low signals (where full well is unimportant) is
achieved using the diode, and high full well for large signals
(which are shot noise limited, so read noise is less important) is
achieved with the capacitors.
Specification Unit Value (Diode) Value (C0) Value (C1)
Gain ADU/e- 0.059 6.12e-3 6.4e-4
Mean Noise ADU 3.2 2.3 4.7
Mean Noise e- 55.9 379 7350
Max Full
ADU 2988 3214 3321
Max Full
e- 51k 525k 5.2M
Figure 9 gives a visual illustration of the different
sensitivities and capacities of the diode and the capacitors.
Fig. 9. Signal Response Curves for the Diode, C0 and C1
The sensor will be back-thinned using the delta-doping
process developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) [5].
This process has already been performed for the test structures
previously discussed, and a Charge Collection Efficiency of
greater than 80% has been observed down to 400 eV. Even as
low as 125 eV, a CCE of 51% has been measured [6].
In this paper, we have presented initial test results for the
P2M FSI sensor and summarized previous testing on the
energy range of the device. Future work will include
demonstrating the full functionality of the gain switching
architecture, optimisation of sensor performance and operation
at higher frame rates. Backside processing for soft X-ray
detection is also underway.
[1] P. Schmuser, M. Dohlus, J. Rossbach, “Physical and Technological
Challenges of an X-Ray FEL,” in Ultraviolet and Soft X-Ray Free
Electron Lasers, 1st ed., Berlin-Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-
Verlag, 2008, pp. 150
[2] S. Sugawa et al, “A 100dB Dynamic Range CMOS Image Sensor Using
a Lateral Overflow Integration Capacitor”, ISSCC. 2005 IEEE
International Digest of Technical Papers. Solid-State Circuits
Conference, 2005, DOI: 10.1109/ISSCC.2005.1494014
[3] A. Kromova et al, “Report on recent results of the PERCIVAL Soft X-
Ray Imager,” JINST 11 C11020 DOI: 10.1088/1748-
[4] C.B. Wunderer et al, “The Percival 2-Megapixel monolithic active pixel
imager,” JINST 14 C01006 DOI: 10.1088/1748-0221/14/01/C01006.
[5] M. Hoenk, P. Grunthaner, F. Grunthaner, R. Terhune, M. Fattahi and H.
Tseng, "Growth of a delta‐doped silicon layer by molecular beam
epitaxy on a charge‐coupled device for reflection‐limited ultraviolet
quantum efficiency", Applied Physics Letters, vol. 61, no. 9, pp. 1084-
1086, 1992. DOI:
[6] J. Correa et al, “On the Charge Collection Efficiency of the PERCIVAL
detector”, 2016 JINST 11 C12032, doi:10.1088/1748-
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