A 128x128 Single-Photon Image Sensor with Column-Level 10-bit Time-to-Digital Converter Array
An imager for time-resolved optical sensing was fabricated in CMOS technology. The sensor comprises an array of 128x128 single-photon pixels, a bank of 32 time-to-digital-converters, and a 7.68Gbps readout system. Thanks to the outstanding timing precision of single-photon avalanche diodes and the optimized measurement circuitry, a typical resolution of 97ps was achieved within a range of 100ns. To the best of our knowledge, this imager is the first fully integrated system for photon time-of-arrival evaluation. Applications include 3D imaging, optical rangefinding, fast fluorescence lifetime imaging, imaging of extremely fast phenomena, and, more generally, imaging based on time-correlated single photon counting. When operated as an optical rangefinder, this design has enabled us to reconstruct 3D scenes with milimetric precisions in extremely low signal exposure. A 1mW laser source was used to illuminate the scene up to 3.75 meters with a field-of-view of 20° and under 150 lux of constant background light. Accurate distance measurements were repeatedly achieved based on a short integration time of 50ms even when signal photon count rates as low as a few hundred photons per second were available.