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Superconducting Microwave Resonator Arrays for Submillimeter/Far-infrared Imaging


Noroozian, Omid (2012) Superconducting Microwave Resonator Arrays for Submillimeter/Far-infrared Imaging. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/8MG2-NB23.


Superconducting microwave resonators have the potential to revolutionize submillimeter and far-infrared astronomy, and with it our understanding of the universe. The field of low-temperature detector technology has reached a point where extremely sensitive devices like transition-edge sensors are now capable of detecting radiation limited by the background noise of the universe. However, the size of these detector arrays are limited to only a few thousand pixels. This is because of the cost and complexity of fabricating large-scale arrays of these detectors that can reach up to 10 lithographic levels on chip, and the complicated SQUID-based multiplexing circuitry and wiring for readout of each detector. In order to make substantial progress, next- generation ground-based telescopes such as CCAT or future space telescopes require focal planes with large-scale detector arrays of 104–106 pixels. Arrays using microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKID) are a potential solution. These arrays can be easily made with a single layer of superconducting metal film deposited on a silicon substrate and pattered using conventional optical lithography. Furthermore, MKIDs are inherently multiplexable in the frequency domain, allowing ∼ 103 detectors to be read out using a single coaxial transmission line and cryogenic amplifier, drastically reducing cost and complexity.

An MKID uses the change in the microwave surface impedance of a superconducting thin-film microresonator to detect photons. Absorption of photons in the superconductor breaks Cooper pairs into quasiparticles, changing the complex surface impedance, which results in a perturbation of resonator frequency and quality factor. For excitation and readout, the resonator is weakly coupled to a transmission line. The complex amplitude of a microwave probe signal tuned on-resonance and transmitted on the feedline past the resonator is perturbed as photons are absorbed in the superconductor. The perturbation can be detected using a cryogenic amplifier and subsequent homodyne mixing at room temperature. In an array of MKIDs, all the resonators are coupled to a shared feedline and are tuned to slightly different frequencies. They can be read out simultaneously using a comb of frequencies generated and measured using digital techniques.

This thesis documents an effort to demonstrate the basic operation of ∼ 256 pixel arrays of lumped-element MKIDs made from superconducting TiNx on silicon. The resonators are designed and simulated for optimum operation. Various properties of the resonators and arrays are measured and compared to theoretical expectations. A particularly exciting observation is the extremely high quality factors (∼ 3 × 107) of our TiNx resonators which is essential for ultra-high sensitivity. The arrays are tightly packed both in space and in frequency which is desirable for larger full-size arrays. However, this can cause a serious problem in terms of microwave crosstalk between neighboring pixels. We show that by properly designing the resonator geometry, crosstalk can be eliminated; this is supported by our measurement results. We also tackle the problem of excess frequency noise in MKIDs. Intrinsic noise in the form of an excess resonance frequency jitter exists in planar superconducting resonators that are made on dielectric substrates. We conclusively show that this noise is due to fluctuations of the resonator capacitance. In turn, the capacitance fluctuations are thought to be driven by two-level system (TLS) fluctuators in a thin layer on the surface of the device. With a modified resonator design we demonstrate with measurements that this noise can be substantially reduced. An optimized version of this resonator was designed for the multiwavelength submillimeter kinetic inductance camera (MUSIC) instrument for the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Astronomical Instrumentation Kinetic Inductance Detector Microwave resonator Photon detector Submillimeter imaging Superconducting detector
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Zmuidzinas, Jonas
Group:Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Zmuidzinas, Jonas (chair)
  • Golwala, Sunil
  • Rutledge, David B.
  • Weinreb, Sander
  • Hajimiri, Ali
Defense Date:18 April 2012
Non-Caltech Author Email:o.noroozian (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)NNG06GC71G
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) under National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)NNX10AC83G
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Keck Institute for Space StudiesUNSPECIFIED
Projects:Multiwavelength Submillimeter Kinetic Inductance Camera (MUSIC), Cornell Caltech Atacama Telescope (CCAT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:06122012-091920562
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7161
Deposited By: Omid Noroozian
Deposited On:12 Jun 2012 21:23
Last Modified:10 Mar 2020 23:26

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