Instructor Information

S. Edward Hawkins III

Work Phone: 443-778-5735

Edward Darlington

Work Phone: 443-778-8453

Course Information

Course Description

This course examines the physics of detection of incoherent electromagnetic radiation from the infrared to the soft X-ray regions. Brief descriptions of the fundamental mechanisms of device operation are given. A variety of illumination sources are considered to clarify detection requirements, with emphasis on solar illumination in the visible and blackbody emission in the infrared. Practical devices, elementary detection circuits, and practical operational constraints are described. An introduction to solid-state and semiconductor physics follows and is then applied to the photodiode, and later to CCD and CMOS devices. A description and analysis of the electronics associated with photodiodes and their associated noise is given. Description of scanning formats leads into the description of spatially resolving systems (e.g., staring arrays). Emphasis is placed on Charged-Coupled Device and CMOS detector arrays. This naturally leads into the discussion of more complex IR detectors and Readout Integrated Circuits that are based on the CMOS pixel. In addition, descriptions of non-spatially resolving detectors based on photoemission and photo-excitation are provided, including background physics, noise, and sensitivity. Selection of optimum detectors and integration into complete system designs are discussed. Applications in space-based and terrestrial remote sensing are discussed, from simple radiometry and imaging to spectrometry.


Undergraduate degree in physics or engineering, preferably with studies in elementary circuit theory, solid-state physics, and optics. Students are expected to be proficient using spreadsheets and/or a programming language such as MATLAB or IDL.

Course Goal

This course is designed to provide the student with sufficient knowledge and analysis tools to select and use suitable devices for the detection of optical radiation for a known application. Sufficient background will be given to understand the physical mechanisms involved in different types of detectors, as well as detailed examination of specific devices so that knowledge can be used for the design of new systems with similar devices.

Course Objectives

  • By the end of the course, you will be able to:

    Identify the basic physics and fundamental characteristics of optical radiation detectors
  • Apply basic knowledge of optics and radiometry to perform sensitivity calculations and figures of merit such as Signal-to-Noise ratios
  • Examine specific examples of advanced detectors including CCDs, microbolometer arrays, and large area IR detector arrays
  • Identify typical applications that use optical radiation detectors in complex space instruments

When This Course is Typically Offered

This course is online and typically offered in the Fall Semester.


  • Introduction to Optical Radiation and Illumination Sources
  • Statistics and Noise Applied to Optical Detectors
  • Solid State Physics and Photodiode Detectors
  • Electronics and Noise with Semiconductor Photodiodes
  • Optics and Radiometry
  • Infrared Devices
  • The MOS Capacitor and the Charge-Coupled Device
  • The CCD in a Camera and a Specific CCD in Detail
  • CMOS Detector Arrays
  • Infrared Detector Systems
  • Microbolometer Arrays and Thermal Imaging
  • The Photomultiplier Tube and Secondary Electron Multiplier
  • Color and Multispectral Imaging
  • Spectrometry and Imaging Spectrometry

Student Assessment Criteria

Class Preparation and Participation (Discussions) 15%
Module Quizzes 15%
Problem Set Assignments 35%
Midterm Exam 15%
Final Exam 20%

Computer and Technical Requirements

The student is expected to have access to a spreadsheet program, and have basic proficiency using a spreadsheet program in order to complete assignments involving radiometry and sensitivity calculations, as well as have the ability to plot results.

Participation Expectations

The student is responsible for studying the lecture notes and listening to the lectures. Although there is a recommended text, the material in this course is much broader than that covered in the so the student is expected to seek out other reference materials. There will also be a number of discussion topics that the student is required to participate in.


Textbook information for this course is available online through the MBS Direct Virtual Bookstore.

Course Notes

There are notes for this course.

(Last Modified: 08/10/2018 02:30:12 PM)