Detection of Light

Detection of Light - Spring Semester 2016

Location & Time

The lectures take place in room HL 414 in the Huygens building on Fridays from 13:45 - 15:30 hr (unless otherwise noted - see schedule below).


The lecturer of 'Part A' is Prof. Dr. Bernhard Brandl, office: #535 (Oort building), phone (071) 527-5830, email. 'Part B' will be taught by a number of expert guest lecturers (see below). The teaching assistant is Michael Wilby, office: #570, email. Course level is 500. The course language is English.

Course concept and content

Detectors are the crucial link between the astronomical target and the observer. As astronomers are aiming at fainter and fainter objects the quality and calibration of the detector systems have become increasingly important. The main goal of this course is to provide an overview of the various physical principles and techniques to detect electromagnetic radiation, from the UV to the sub-millimeter.

The course is split in two parts:

'Part A' (3 ECTS) is aimed at the observational astronomer and provides an overview of common  detector technologies and their operation.  Course topics are intrinsic and extrinsic photo-conductors, photodiodes and other junction-based detectors, detector arrays, bolometers, coherent receivers, and submillimeter- and millimeterwave heterodyne receivers. The course will not only provide the physical background of the various detector technologies but also cover practical aspects, which are of general interest to the observer, such as cosmetic quality and detector artifacts, linearity and dynamical range, spectral response and bandwidth, quantum efficiency and noise.

 'Part B' (3 ECTS) can be followed by all astronomy MSc students, but is mainly aimed at students of 'Astronomy & Instrumentation' or physics.  It consists of talks on specific topics, given by renowned guest lecturers. 

Students may follow 'Part A' only, but students who want to get credits for 'Part B' must have followed 'Part A' before.

Credits and grading

'Part A' and 'Part B' count each 3 ECTS (3+3).

The grade for 'Part A' is based to 80% on the written exam and 20% on the mandatory homeworks. The exam is on 22 April, 13:45 - 16:45 hr. It is a written, "closed book" exam. Pocket calculators are required at the exam.

The credits for 'Part B' require the attendance of (most of) the lectures of 'Part B' as well as a written report based on a literature study.  The topic of the latter is closely related to one of the guest lectures.  The report has to be written within 3 weeks, and the ultimate deadline for all reports is 15 July 2016.  The grading will follow the O/V/G scheme.


The course will be heavily based on the book Detection of Light - from the Ultraviolet to the Submillimeter, by George Rieke, 2nd Edition, 2003, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-01710-6. It is recommended that students get their own copy of this book.

Recommended for further reading are:

Schedule 'Part A'



Organization & Refresher of Solid State Physics

General: grading, exercises, book, nature of light, EM spectrum, technology, photographic plate, overview of detectors principles and types; solid state physics: atomic energy levels, crystal: bands, conductors and semi-condd., k-vector, Fermi energy

Intrinsic Photoconductors & Noise

general principle, box diagram, conductivity, mobility, tau, gain, quantum efficiency and responsivity; intro noise: poisson & Gaussian & 1/f noise; detector noise: Johnson, kTC, 1/f, BLIP

Extrinsic Photoconductors

energy bands, doping, wavelength ranges, limitations, drawbacks and comparisons; BIB detectors, photodiodes, avalanche diodes

IR Arrays

IR arrays: principle, construction, readout electronics;


CCDs: principle, back/front illuminated, thinned, readout, CTE, CT architectures, GAIA example, variants

Operations and Artifacts

Readout schemes: SUR, Fowler, linearity & dynamic range, data rates; cryogenics


Basic operation, time constants, superconducting, edged; comparison: responsivity, noise, NEP

Heterodyne Detectors

general principle, IF, mixing, sidebands, bandwidth, components (HEB, SIS); performance: throughput, S/N, noise and antenna temperature, comparison coherent-incoherent detectors

  22-Apr-16 14:00 - 17:00hr EXAM in room HL414  

Program 'Part B'

Date Speaker Affiliation Topic
29-04-16 Akira Endo TU Delft Photons, interference, and uncertainty
13-05-16 Marco Beiersbergen U Leiden Detection of high energy photons
20-05-16 Alessandra Menicucci TU Delft Space radiation environment and its effect on detectors
27-05-16 Jochem Baselmans SRON/TU Delft Microwave kinetic inductance devices (MKIDs)
03-06-16 Derek Ives ESO Garching Optical and IR detectors for astronomy: development, test and characterization
10-06-16 Edoardo Charbon TU Delft Avalanche photo diodes / photon multiplier CCDs
17-06-16 Jian-rong Gao SRON/TU Delft Transition edge sensors (TES) and applications
24-06-16 Huib van Langenvelde JIVE/U Leiden Radio wave detections









Literature/Research Projects

Lecturer Project title Student Due date
Akira Endo Are photons indivisible?
(possible phenomena in astronomy where this could be detectable)
Steven 10-6-16
Marco Beiersbergen Design an X-ray polarimeter
(polarised sources in X-ray astronomy & best detection methods)
Gunjan 24-6-16
Alessandra Menicucci Radiation environment and its effects on CCD degradation for an X-ray telescope on an orbit around L2 Christine 05-7-16
Alessandra Menicucci Radiation environment and its effects on CCD degradation for an X-ray telescope on a highly elliptical orbit Qian Qian 08-7-16
Jochem Baselmans Lumped element KID (LeKID) detectors -- comparison to MKIDs !!!available!!!
Derek Ives Avalanche gain in CCDs and IR detectors Vikram 15-7-16
Derek Ives Hybridized PIN diodes, CCDs and CMOS -- pros and cons Iva 15-7-16
Edoardo Charbon Photon-counting Imaging Systems in Space Applications Patrick 22-7-16
Jian-rong Gao CMB measurements with TESs and MKIDs - what is best? !!!available!!! 05-08-16
Huib van Langenvelde