Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


OCAMIR Report Summary

Project ID: 673944

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OCAMIR (The world’s fastest low noise infrared camera: Optic camera infrared)

Reporting period: 2015-04-01 to 2016-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The e-APD technology is a breakthrough technology that promises unprecedented infrared detector performance. It allows electron multiplication as EM-CCD for visible range of observation.
Usually IR cameras are slow and noisy, Ocamir will be faster than the fastest camera on the market and more sensitive at the same time in the same device.
By now the fastest SWIR camera on the market is 1750 fps and the less noisy is around 15 electrons. In comparison Ocamir will reach 3500 fps with sub electron noise.
Scientifically it will open a new era in SWIR imaging in astronomy, biology, industry and defense.
Strategically, it is important that Europe be world leader on this technology as it will increase its independency from American Infrared sensors manufacturers.

Therefore, the purpose of this project is to start the development of an entirely European e-APD supply chain, from conception and design to retail sales.

Space imaging can only use the best technologies in order to be competitive and to socially justify the big investment of such programs, on earth or in space. Knowhow and talents in this field are already existing in Europe, but effort must now be made on SME for system integration in order to valorize the developed technology. Promoting infrared e-APD technology is not only a chance for First Light Imaging: it will also motivate our European industrial partners in UK and France to progress and offer better infrared imaging performances that outperform US technologies. The OCAMIR project will participate to the same effort in order to develop world competitive infrared imaging technologies that are of huge interest for the next generation of space programs worldwide, including US-lead Space programs. It is known that Space and Astronomy markets are references for other fields of applications. As detailed below, biology, medical imagery and industry also have interest in low-noise SWIR cameras. These markets, slower to reach but eventually bigger and have more added value on a long term strategy.

The purpose of this project is to put on the market a revolutionary SWIR camera with unprecedented performance, targeting at first the Spatial and Astronomical field, followed later by industrial and Biomedical markets.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"The work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report is described hereafter per work package.

- Work Package 1 - Project Management
In addition to the periodic project follow-up (once each 2 to 3 weeks) 2 project general meetings have been carried out on a 6 month frequency during the past period. These meeting are organized to provide the up-to-date project documentation and is peer reviewed. The usual process for each periodic general meeting is the following:
- T0-15 days: meeting documents due date. Distribution to the reviewers.
- T0-7 days: remarks (called "RIX", for Review Item X…) from the reviewers due date. Compilation and distribution of the RIXes to the documents authors to answer them
- T0-1 day: RIXes answers due date
- T0: meeting (all day)
- T0+7: updated meeting documents due date
Due to intellectual property issues, there is no external reviewer in the documents review panel, the reviewers are all the progress meeting participants but usually most of the RIXes are issued by the senior engineers (scientific advisors).

- Work Package 2: called “OCAMIR camera specifications” allows to define all specifications of the infrared detector and expectations from the market and customers. The specifications of the camera prototype has been completed.

- Work Package 3: “OCAMIR camera prototype” will define the infrared camera and will allow to access the real system performances and limitations of this camera.

Mechanics and cryogenics progress:
The mechanical design was done around the detector. To maintain the operational temperature of 80K, the detector must be connected to a cryogenic system and maintain in high vacuum area. Also, the mechanical development was done to obtain a compact design.

Vacuum design:
• Cryostat is a main part of mechanical design. It’s a monolithic part and allow to connect the functional elements (pulse tube, getter, electric board, etc.) and keep a high vacuum. So the sealing between each elements is very important.
• The getter is a miniature passive pump and allow to maintain the vacuum during one-year minimum without external re-pumping.
• A valve is necessary to do the initial pumping and to outgassing camera’s materials. The vacuum valve is screw type to stay on compact design.
• The electrical feedthrough allow to communicate with the sensor and ensure the system sealing. This feedthrough is realized with special epoxy glue to limit outgassing material.
• The sealing window is realized by epoxy glue too.
• The number of seal is limited as much as possible and it’s metal type to limit the leakage rate of system.

Cryogenic design:
• To achieve the functional temperature of 80K on the detector, a pulse tube cryo-cooler is used. The main benefits of this system are the power available, the reliability and the possibility to deport vibration source generated by the compressor.
• All part’s surfaces into the cryostat have a specific treatment to decrease their emissivity.
• Materials are chosen follow their thermal conductivity.

Readout electronics progress:
Global Architecture.
5 different PCBs have been designed to drive the e-APD and to comply with the requirements of the WP2.

Camera firmware progress
The camera firmware drives the full system. It initializes, supervises and manages the camera.
The firmware is based on embedded Linux distribution petalinux. It is used because it is a very reliable software used by millions of devices and this distribution could support our hardware platform. Firmware development for the WP3 has been achieved.

- Work Package 4: ”OCAMIR camera commercial product” will develop the OCAMIR camera product ready to be offered to the customers.
Detector update
A new version of the detector, called ME1000, is currently being procured, offering improved flexibility and readout scheme compared to the prototype of WP3. This new detector will offer a real Correlated Double Sampling readout mode.
Update of the readout electronics due to detector new specifications
Analog voltages of the outputs are now closer to the GND and the current first stage amplifier can’t deal with rail to rail operation. A new stage is designed and includes optimisations thanks to tests performed on the prototype.
Moreover, the ME1000 has totally new read out technique that cancels and replaces previous one. The programmable logic needs to be update in accordance.
Mechanics and cryogenics progress
The prototype allowed us to revise some parts of mechanical design like detector support to achieve a reliable product.

- Work Package 5: this WP “Communication and Results dissemination” allows to communicate about the project and the technology development and its results.
As part of the Horizon 2020 program, First Light Imaging must communicate and disseminate results regarding the OCAMIR two-year project, with regard to the communication plan.
There are several objectives inherent to this communication plan:
• Building awareness and understanding of the OCAMIR project, and of its applications
• Assisting stakeholders/European Commission to be updated on the project progress
• Encouraging the scientific community, business community and general public to be enthusiastic about this innovative project
• Positioning the OCAMIR project as a real technological breakthrough in Infrared Camera, and more generally, promote the product as a tremendous innovation, and First Light Imaging."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

OCAMIR will be the first and unique commercial IR camera offering sub-electron noise, infrared sensitivity up to 2.5 microns and fast readout, up to 3500 fps. This product is clearly beyond all what is existing on the market and even in academic laboratories.

The global market of OCAMIR is very large and is necessarily World Wide Sized. This Infrared cameras market is segmented in several ways:
Segmentation by Spectrum Range: SWIR, MWIR, LWIR & FWIR cameras,
Segmentation by applications: Commercial, Military & Defense, Industrial, Medical Imaging, Automotive, Space and Astronomy.
Segmentation by detectors suppliers and technology: only a few manufacturers in the world are able to produce cooled infrared detectors: Teledyne, USA, Sofradir, France, Selex, UK, using InGaAs or MCT technology.

Ocamir will bring new possibilities in Astronomy: faster adaptive optic systems for more efficient observations.
Bioimagery: detecting with non invasive technologies cancer cells at early diagnosis.
Industry: Control on semiconductors manufacturing process.
Defense: See before being seen...

In 2015, First Light employs 12 peoples:
3 senior engineers, in charge of supervising the R&D operations, those world-class engineers are under the scope of French research law which allows them to be part of the company for 20% of their time for scientific management only. They are still involved in their public research labs: Laboratoire d’astrophysique de Marseille (LAM) and Institut de Planétologie de Grenoble (IPAG/CNRS):
4 R&D engineers, electronics, software, mechanics and cryogenics are supervised by them,
1 technician in charge of technical assistance and current range of product (OCAM2) production,
1 administrative person for back office,
1 Marketing and communication manager
1 CEO, in charge of general management and sales).
All those people are affected, partly or in totality, to this program
In 2016, First Light has increased its team:
We have hired 4 more employees: One IT technician, 1 young doctor in bio imagery, 1 electronics engineer and is looking for a software engineer. These people will be affected to the current operations and new R&D programs, this will allow First Light to respect the initial planning for Ocamir.

2017 and following: The expected volumes will require to hire more people affected to production and tests, technical management and sales: (10 peoples will be recruited along and after the development program).

1.3.3 Supply chain:

The supply chain is still 100% European which remains a real advantage to be out of the scope of ITAR rules and to be able to export to China and other non EU markets.

Related information

Record Number: 186670 / Last updated on: 2016-07-14