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Is there an equivalent of CCD/CMOS sensors for non-optical wavelengths?

(not looking for alternative/indirect methods like interferometry)

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    $\begingroup$ Non-optical covers all sorts of wavelengths. I think you need to specify a wavelength range. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 11:37
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean something like an infrared camera? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 15:39
  • $\begingroup$ Would you count ALMA as a 2D sensor? It is an array of receiving elements (and each one has two polarizations measured). $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ @ProfRob Radio waves, in this case $\endgroup$
    – 2080
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ Still not precise enough. What is a radio wave, what is a microwave? Is 1mm a radio wave? $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 5:50

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Is there an equivalent of CCD/CMOS sensors for non-optical wavelengths?

Yes!

But before I mention them have a look at some "radio" focal planes of discrete receivers to show what I think you are not asking about first:

note: click images for full size

below x2: Cropped from CSIRO ScienceImage 2161 Close up of a radio astronomy telescope with several more in the background.

cropped from "CSIRO ScienceImage 2161 Close up of a radio astronomy telescope with several more in the background"

Parkes Radio Telescope 21cm Focal Plane Array in 1997 Parkes Radio Telescope 21cm Focal Plane Array in 1997 enter image description here

Above: Superposition of the half-power beam widths of the 13-element array of the Parkes 21-cm Mutlibeam Receiver, as used in [a study of a Fast Radio Bursters]http://arxiv.org/abs/1602.07477.

Okay, now what you are asking about; "equivalent of CCD/CMOS sensors for non-optical wavelengths":

The first thing that comes to mind are bolometer and calorimeter chips. These are devices where the top layer absorbs photons, sometimes sensitive to a single photon, converting its energy to heat. The device directly below it in the same pixel is something very sensitive to tiny changes in temperature or a single thermal pulse, respectively.

For very low energy photons of microwave frequencies, there are transition-edge sensors like the ones used in the focal plane of the South Pole Telescope. For the newest focal plane array SPT-3G camera:

The camera consists of over 16,000 detectors, split evenly between 90, 150, and 220 GHz.

For a good review of the underlying technology, start with:

A single SPT-3G hexagonal detector wafer with flexible cables that connect the detectors to the rest of the readout chain. Each black spot on the wafer is an antenna that couples the incoming light to six different TES detectors (three bands and orthogonal polarizations) from Amy Bender's Github

(click image for full size)

A single SPT-3G hexagonal detector wafer with flexible cables that connect the detectors to the rest of the readout chain. Each black spot on the wafer is an antenna that couples the incoming light to six different TES detectors (three bands and orthogonal polarizations).

Source: Amy Bender's Github SPT-3G

From:

Figure 3. (Left) Picture of the SPT-3G detector array (consisting of ten detector modules) and supporting sub-kelvin architecture. Figure 4. Scanning electron microscope micrograph of an SPT-3G pixel, showing the sinuous antenna at the center surrounded by six TES bolometers as well as various test structures.

(click images for full size)

Figure 3. (Left) Picture of the SPT-3G detector array (consisting of ten detector modules) and supporting sub-kelvin architecture. The thermal stages are mechanically supported by a Graphlite truss structure that stands off the UC, IC, and 1K stages from a mounting ring at 4K. Each stage is machined from aluminum alloy 6061 and gold-plated to promote thermal conductivity across the components and between interfaces. The thermal stages are coupled to the sorption refrigerator using pressure-bonded annealed OFHC braided copper straps (Sobrin et al. 2018).

Figure 4. Scanning electron microscope micrograph of an SPT-3G pixel, showing the sinuous antenna at the center surrounded by six TES bolometers as well as various test structures. The bolometers corresponding to one polarization state have been labeled with their respective observing bands.


This is from NASA's Superconducting Detectors for Study of Infant Universe

The BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole uses novel technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The focal plane shown here is an array of devices that use superconductivity to gather, filter, detect, and amplify polarized light from the cosmic microwave background -- relic radiation left over from the Big Bang that created our universe.

The microscope is showing a close-up view of one of the 512 pixels on the focal plane, displayed on the screen in the background.

Each pixel is made from a printed antenna that collects polarized millimeter-wavelength radiation, with a filter that selects the wavelengths to be detected. A sensitive detector is fabricated on a thin membrane created through a process called micro-machining.

Note that BICEP-3 and BICEP Array will supersede this technology, at least in total pixel count.

The BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole uses novel technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.  The focal plane shown here is an array of devices that use superconductivity to gather, filter, detect, and amplify polarized light from the cosmic microwave background

(click for full size image)

See also


@ConnorGarcia's answer highlights the infrared telescope JWST's focal plane detectors.

See:

NIRCam, NIRSpec and FGS/NIRISS use mercury-cadmium-telluride (HgCdTe) semiconductor pixel arrays that convert lower energy infrared photons (here 0.6 yo 6 um) to carriers just like silicon sensors do, but they sit above a matching silicon CCD that accepts the charge produced in the low band gap material and do the necessary shifting for readout and transfer to the traditional charge amplifiers and ADCs.

MIRI however uses an arsenic-doped silicon array, based on impurity band conduction rather than the bulk silicon's conduction bands. G. H. Rieke et al. (2015) The Mid-Infrared Instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope, VII: The MIRI Detectors begins:

The detectors of choice for the 5 - 28 µm range are arsenic-doped silicon impurity band conduction (Si:As IBC) devices. They have extensive space flight heritage, for example, arrays of these devices were used in all three Spitzer instruments (IRAC: Hora et al. (2004a); IRS: van Cleve et al. (1995), Houck et al. (2004); and MIPS: Gordon et al. (2004)), in WISE (Mainzer et al. 2008), in MSX (Mill et al. 1994) and in Akari (Onaka et al. 2007). The focal planes on these missions have demonstrated high detective quantum efficiencies, low dark current and relative freedom from other spurious signals, excellent photometric performance, and resistance to the effects of cosmic radiation. Similar detector arrays were selected for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on JWST.

Figure 1: A James Webb Space Telescope Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) detector with optical baffles removed. Light is collected in the purple mercury-cadmium-telluride film. The film is pixelated, although the individual pixels are far too small to be seen by eye here. Credit: University of Arizona/NASA

(click image for full size)

Figure 1: A James Webb Space Telescope Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) detector with optical baffles removed. Light is collected in the purple mercury-cadmium-telluride film. The film is pixelated, although the individual pixels are far too small to be seen by eye here. Credit: University of Arizona/NASA

Source: Goddard Space Flight Center's JWST Infrared Detectors

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  • $\begingroup$ NIRCam has nothing to do with radio astronomy. BICEP2 is a microwave experiment. The South Pole Telescope is mainly sub-mm. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ProfRob a continuum of technologies for a continuum of wavelengths. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 11:58
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You could use an array of radio telescopes like a CCD, by pointing each dish at a different element of a sky grid, with each grid element as wide as the effective antenna beamwidth. I have never heard of an array being used in this way. Practically, I think interferometry is always used for radio telescope arrays, given the higher sensitivity and resolution possible.

As an example of other non-optical astronomy sensors, the JWST's NIRCam is "analogous to CCDs found in ordinary digital cameras" according to this NASA website.

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