PhD researcher on Next generation single-photon imaging for autonomous driving

Leuven - PhD
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Central to humanity’s economic progress in modern history has been the electronics industry’s contribution to productivity.  Further advance in automation requires innovation in autonomous systems that are aware of their physical environment.  Self-driving cars, augmented reality or robotic surgery are just a few of the countless applications.  Quintessential to this development is the realization of a robust system for depth sensing.  Imec is setting up a large program to realize this potential and is ideally positioned to bring together all the essential ingredients including system modeling, high-speed circuit design, integrated optics and advanced imaging and detector manufacturing.

A leading technique in depth sensing uses light and measures the time of flight of individual photons.  Traditional detectors and imagers for single-photon detection rely on vacuum-electronic devices such as photo-multiplier tubes, micro-channel plates or image intensifiers.  These systems are expensive, bulky and fragile, and require high voltages making them cumbersome to use.  Popular solid-state alternatives such as single-photon avalanche diodes (SPAD) offer significant advantages in this regard but leave much to wish for in terms of resolution and photon detection probability.  Building on our 30+ years of experience building CMOS imagers, imec strives to expand its capability to develop and integrate solid-state ultrafast, single-photon counting devices for future photon starved applications.

Imec is soliciting enthusiastic PhD candidates to acquire and extend the state-of-the-art in critical core competencies underpinning a coming revolution in machine vision.  The goal of this PhD is to develop single-photon sensitive solid-state detectors and imagers to advance next generation depth sensing.  A thorough literature study will be a first step to investigate different device concepts, explore their limits and potential and identify promising new avenues.  Following steps will be the design and validation of these new devices using TCAD, layout of test structures, implementation of the device into existing imec imager platforms in collaboration with our technology experts, development of the required measurement techniques and the characterization of the fabricated devices.  The devices will be tested in a proof-of-concept experiment for their use in Time-of-Flight based 3D imaging.

single-photon imaging

Required background: 

Electrical engineering, material science, solid-state physics, or related.

Type of work:

30% TCAD design and layout, 40% technology implementation, 30% hands-on experiments.

Supervisor: Chris Van Hoof

Daily advisor: Andreas Süss and Maarten Rosmeulen

When you apply for this PhD project, mention the following reference code in the imec application form: ref. SE 1704-14.

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