Control circuits for avalanche photodiodes

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Deng, Shijie
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University College Cork
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Avalanche Photodiodes (APDs) have been used in a wide range of low light sensing applications such as DNA sequencing, quantum key distribution, LIDAR and medical imaging. To operate the APDs, control circuits are required to achieve the desired performance characteristics. This thesis presents the work on development of three control circuits including a bias circuit, an active quench and reset circuit and a gain control circuit all of which are used for control and performance enhancement of the APDs. The bias circuit designed is used to bias planar APDs for operation in both linear and Geiger modes. The circuit is based on a dual charge pumps configuration and operates from a 5 V supply. It is capable of providing milliamp load currents for shallow-junction planar APDs that operate up to 40 V. With novel voltage regulators, the bias voltage provided by the circuit can be accurately controlled and easily adjusted by the end user. The circuit is highly integrable and provides an attractive solution for applications requiring a compact integrated APD device. The active quench and reset circuit is designed for APDs that operate in Geiger-mode and are required for photon counting. The circuit enables linear changes in the hold-off time of the Geiger-mode APD (GM-APD) from several nanoseconds to microseconds with a stable setting step of 6.5 ns. This facilitates setting the optimal `afterpulse-free' hold-off time for any GM-APD via user-controlled digital inputs. In addition this circuit doesn’t require an additional monostable or pulse generator to reset the detector, thus simplifying the circuit. Compared to existing solutions, this circuit provides more accurate and simpler control of the hold-off time while maintaining a comparable maximum count-rate of 35.2 Mcounts/s. The third circuit designed is a gain control circuit. This circuit is based on the idea of using two matched APDs to set and stabilize the gain. The circuit can provide high bias voltage for operating the planar APD, precisely set the APD’s gain (with the errors of less than 3%) and compensate for the changes in the temperature to maintain a more stable gain. The circuit operates without the need for external temperature sensing and control electronics thus lowering the system cost and complexity. It also provides a simpler and more compact solution compared to previous designs. The three circuits designed in this project were developed independently of each other and are used for improving different performance characteristics of the APD. Further research on the combination of the three circuits will produce a more compact APD-based solution for a wide range of applications.
Bias circuit , Gain control , Active quench , Control circuits
Deng, S. 2013. Control circuits for avalanche photodiodes. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.