Detection of Light

Detection of Light - Spring Semester 2018

Location & Time

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


The lecturer of 'Part A' is Prof. Dr. Bernhard Brandl, office: HL 1106 (Huygens building), phone (071) 527-5830, email.

'Part B' will be taught by a number of expert guest lecturers (see below).

The teaching assistant is Patrick Dorval, office: #453, 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 to 20% on the mandatory homeworks. The exam is on Friday, 13 April 2018, 13:30 - 16:30 hr. It is a written, "closed book" exam. Pocket calculators are required at the exam.

In order to get the credits for 'Part B', one has to attend the lectures of 'Part B', as well as write a report, which is mainly a literature study on one of the topics of the guest lectures.  The report has to be written within six weeks and will not receive a numerical grade but receive, for simplicity, an O/V/G "grade".


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


no lecture

4 2-Mar-18 IR Arrays & CCDs IR arrays: principle, construction, readout electronics; CCDs: principle, back/front illuminated, thinned, readout, CTE, CT architectures, variants Homework
Operations and Artifacts

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

Operations and Artifacts



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

  30-Mar-18   Good Friday  
Heterodyne Detectors

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

  13-Apr-18 13:30 - 16:30hr EXAM in room HL414  


Program 'Part B'

Date Speaker Affiliation Topic
20-Apr-18 Marco Beijersbergen U Leiden/cosine Detection of high-energy photons
27-Apr-18 King's Day
04-May-18 Simon Tulloch ESO Development, characterization and operation of detectors for astronomy
11-May-18 Ascension Day    
18-05-17 Pourya Khosropanah SRON/TU Delft TES and applications
25-May-18 Jochem Baselmans SRON/TU Delft Kinetic Inductance detectors for imaging and spectroscopy from optical to Terahertz astronomy
01-Jun-18 Alessandra Menicucci TU Delft Space radiation environment and its effect on detectors
08-Jun-18 Michiel Brentjens Astron Radio receivers










Literature/Research Projects - TBD

Lecturer Project title Student Due date