A 65k pixel, 150k frames-per-second camera with global gating and micro-lenses suitable for fluorescence lifetime imaging
This paper presents our work on a 65k pixel single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) based imaging sensor realized in a 0.35 mu m standard CMOS process. At a resolution of 512 by 128 pixels the sensor is read out in 6.4ps to deliver over 150k monochrome frames per second. The individual pixel has a size of 24 mu m(2) and contains the SPAD with a 12T quenching and gating circuitry along with a memory element. The gating signals are distributed across the chip through a balanced tree to minimize the signal skew between the pixels. The array of pixels is row-addressable and data is sent out of the chip on 128 lines in parallel at a frequency of 80MHz. The system is controlled by an FPGA which generates the gating and readout signals and can be used for arbitrary real-time computation on the frames from the sensor. The communication protocol between the camera and a conventional PC is USB2. The active area of the chip is 5% and can be significantly improved with the application of a micro-lens array. A micro-lens array, for use with collimated light, has been designed and its performance is reviewed in the paper. Among other high-speed phenomena the gating circuitry capable of generating illumination periods shorter than 5ns can be used for Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM). In order to measure the lifetime of fluorophores excited by a picosecond laser, the sensor's illumination period is synchronized with the excitation laser pulses. A histogram of the photon arrival times relative to the excitation is then constructed by counting the photons arriving during the sensitive time for several positions of the illumination window. The histogram for each pixel is transferred afterwards to a computer where software routines extract the lifetime at each location with an accuracy better than 100ps. We show results for fluorescence lifetime measurements using different fluorophores with lifetimes ranging from 150ps to 5ns.