Arrays of kinetic inductance detectors have the potential to revolutionise astronomy in the mm-FIR-MIR wavelength region, and allow the development on novel instrument concepts. Some examples of these applications include:

  • MIR direct imaging and spectroscopy of exoplanets
  • Submm/FIR spectroscopy and interferometry
  • Cosmic microwave background imaging and polarimetry

Kinetic inductance detectors offer wide spectral coverage, high sensitivity and speed of detection and can therefore be applied to a range of space-borne experiments regardless of the wavelength range, instrument type and observing mode.

Carina NebulaHerschel image of Carina Nebula. Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/HOBYS Consortium.

Future cosmic microwave background  polarization missions

One of the primary science goals for cosmic microwave background (CMB) cosmology in the next decade is the study of the B-mode polarization induced by a gravitational wave background. Detection of this mode would not only confirm an inflationary model for the early universe, but would also distinguish between models and constrain the physical processes invoked. However detecting the B-mode polarization presents several challenges. Current and proposed missions include BICEP, SPIDER, CoRE and EPIC, require a large number of detectors with wide frequency coverage for astronomical foreground removal and a high degree of control and understanding of systematic polarization effects. Only one of these proposed missions is European-led.  

Current instrument designs incorporate technologies such as superconducting transition edge sensor (TES) bolometers coupled to either phased array antennas (designed by JPL/Caltech, USA) or arrays of corrugated silicon platelet feed horns, developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA). Development of antenna or horn-coupled SPACEKIDS technology may enable the use of larger arrays in an instrument format that is both easier to optimize, to fabricate and to integrate into a full working instrument. The detector sensitivity requirement for this application is determined by the photon noise of the CMB at the 10-18 W Hz-1/2 level which has already been demonstrated in KIDs.

MM-wave and FIR spectroscopy and interferometry

Half of the electromagnetic energy in the universe emitted by stars, gas and dust is emitted at FIR wavelengths (30 - 1000 μm). Galactic and cosmological surveys with HERSCHEL are opening up this region of the spectrum and characterizing the basic properties of 100,000's of galactic and extra-galactic objects. Further spectroscopic and interferometric measurements with improved sensitivity and angular resolution at mm-FIR wavelengths are needed to uncover the nature of these sources as well as providing access to fainter and as yet invisible sources. For example, mm-FIR spectroscopy with SPACEKIDS would enable the determination of the redshifts of distant star-forming galaxies which are invisible in the optical due to their large obscuring dust content. These spectroscopic measurements also are essential for measuring the molecular and atomic gas content and temperature in distant galaxies. This is required in order to determine star-formation efficiencies and excitation conditions in galaxies as a function of cosmic time and thereby understanding the processes involved in galaxy formation and evolution.

These spectroscopic instruments require detectors with high sensivities (10-19-10-20 W Hz-1/2) as well as large numbers (1000’s – 100,000's) of pixels to maximize survey speed.  The sensitivities required for FIRI have not yet been achieved with any detector technology at these wavelengths. Development of superconducting on-chip spectrometers at mm-wavelengths would also enable full mm-wave hyperspectral imaging opening up a potentially large astronomical discovery space both with space-borne and ground-based instruments as well as having potential applications in earth observation.

Ground based astronomy

There is great potential for the use of SPACEKID technology in ground-based astronomy, particularly in the next generation mm-wave and submm cameras and spectrometers. The largest submm camera currently in operation is the SCUBA2 instrument with 10,000 TES pixels on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii. Recently, the NIKA KID camera has demonstrated state-of-the-art performance with approximately 250 KIDs operating at wavelengths of 1.1 and 2.1 mm on the IRAM 30 m telescope in Spain. A similar KID camera has been demonstrated on the APEX telescope at 350 μbased telescopes such as IRAM, LMT and CCAT.

In addition, the development of an on-chip spectrometer offers the possibility of hyperspectral imaging and spectroscopic surveys at mm-wavelengths. These instruments would provide similar capabilities at mm/submm wavelengths to optical fibre-coupled multi-object spectrometers used at optical wavelengths for measurement of redshifts of galaxies and spectra of local sources.

2nd SPACEKIDs workshop

2nd international SPACEKIDs Workshop

The second, and final community workshop will be held on 10th March at the European Space Technology Centre, Noorwijk, Netherlands.


2nd SPACEKIDs workshop

2nd international SPACEKIDs Workshop

The second, and final community workshop will be held on 10th March at the European Space Technology Centre, Noorwijk, Netherlands.


Announcement of first SPACEKIDs workshop

The first SPACEKIDS workshop has been announced.

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The SPACEKIDS project "Kick-Off" meeting was held in Cardiff on  28th-29th January, 2013.

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