Detection of optical radiation

Authored by: Antoni Rogalski , Zbigniew Bielecki , Janusz Mikolajczyk

Handbook of Optoelectronics

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781482241785
eBook ISBN: 9781315157009
Adobe ISBN:


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The birth of photodetectors can be dated back to 1873 when Smith discovered photoconductivity in selenium. Progress was slow until 1905, when Einstein explained the newly observed photoelectric effect in metals and Planck solved the blackbody emission puzzle by introducing the quanta hypothesis. Applications and new devices soon flourished, pushed by the dawning technology of vacuum tube sensors developed in the 1920s and 1930s culminating in the advent of television. Zworykin and Morton, the celebrated fathers of videonics, on the last page of their legendary book Television (1939) concluded that “when rockets will fly to the moon and to other celestial bodies, the first images we will see of them will be those taken by camera tubes, which will open to mankind new horizons.” Their foresight became a reality with the Apollo and Explorer missions. Photolithography enabled the fabrication of silicon monolithic imaging focal planes for the visible spectrum beginning in the early 1960s. Some of these early developments were intended for a picture phone, other efforts were for television cameras, satellite surveillance, and digital imaging. Infrared (IR) imaging has been vigorously pursed in parallel with visible imaging because of its utility in military applications. More recently (1997), the charge-coupled device (CCD) camera aboard the Hubble space telescope delivered a deep-space picture, a result of 10 days integration, featuring galaxies of the 30th magnitude—an unimaginable figure even for astronomers of our generation. Probably, the next effort will be in the big-band age. Thus, photodetectors continue to open to mankind the most amazing new horizons.

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