FBK provides Silicon Photomultipliers to equip the focal plane of the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope

19 June 2020

The choice of Silicon Photomultipliers (SiPMs) made by FBK to equip the focal plane of the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT), installed in the VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) observatory site, in Arizona, USA, is an important and prestigious achievement of great satisfaction for the researchers that developed the technology. SiPMs are photon detectors of extreme sensitivity (down to the single photon detection). FBK has been developing the technology for over 10 years, achieving world-class status in terms of performance. FBK designs and fabricates SiPMs in its internal fab. They are a key enabling technology for a number of frontier physics experiments like the next-generation ground-based gamma-ray observatory (CTA, Cherenkov Telescope Array) and Dark Side-20k, designed for Dark Matter particle searches. The pSCT, which is the biggest dual-mirror Schwarzschild-Couder telescope ever built, has recently detected the first gamma-ray signals from the Crab Nebula. Currently, only the central region of the pSCT focal plane, composed of 1600 pixels, is equipped with SiPMs from different manufacturers, including FBK. At the end of the ongoing upgrade, the entire focal plane, composed of 11328 pixels, will be employ FBK SiPMs.
Alberto Gola, who leads the development of SiPMs at FBK, declares: “the excellent performance of our SiPMs in the pSct is the successful result of a research and development project carried forward by FBK and INFN over the last five years. It shows the very high level of competence and ingenuity of FBK researchers for designing and producing beyond state-of-the-art sensors with world record results, often outperforming competitors of the size of big international companies. This is achieved thanks to the skills and dedication of FBK researchers and technicians and to the fruitful and strategic collaboration with INFN. FBK also owes to the support of the Provincia Autonoma di Trento (PAT), which has constantly invested in the frontier technologies of FBK”.
According to Giovanni Paternoster, who takes care of the microfabrication of the SiPMs in FBK’s own clean-room, “the R&D activities carried out for the Cta observatory required substantial changes to the SiPM design and microfabrication process, to meet the demanding requirements set for the pSct focal plane, as regards detector sensitivity and noise.”
SiPM is one of the key technologies at the center of FBK research and innovation actions. These sensors have both a great importance for scientific experiments and numerous applications in key technology and industrial sectors, potentially affecting people’s lives. Examples are in medical imaging applications, like Positron Emission Tomography scanners of the next generation, or in automotive industry, in LIDAR systems for autonomous driving. SiPMs bear a great potential for a positive impact on local and national industrial activities, especially if an Italian high-tech supply chain that includes sensors, electronics and system solutions is set in place, as it happened in the case of the pSct.