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Radio Frequency Phototube


Development of a New Photon Detector with Picosecond Time Resolution

Tech Area / Field

  • INS-DET/Detection Devices/Instrumentation
  • INS-MEA/Measuring Instruments/Instrumentation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
A.I. Alikhanyan National Science Laboratory, Armenia, Yerevan


  • University of Lund / Department of Chemical Physics, Sweden, Lund\nSynchrotron Soleil, France, Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex\nHampton University / Department of Physics, USA, VA, Hampton\nThomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, USA, VA, Newport News\nBecker & Hickl GmbH, Germany, Berlin\nUniversity of Glasgow / Department of Physics and Astronomy, UK, Glasgow\nTohoku University / Department of Physics, Japan, Sendai

Project summary

Objective: The main goal of the proposed project is to develop the design, to construct and to test a prototype of a new photon detector with ~10-11 -10-12 sec temporal resolution for single photoelectrons with an appropriate readout and data processing system. It is foreseen to create Cherenkov time-of flight (ToF) counter based on this new photon detector and timing system and to test it in real experimental conditions. The expected time resolution of the Cherenkov ToF counter based on this new photon detector and timing system is about or better than 10-11 sec.

State of the art: The detection of visible light is the principal part of a wide range of scientific, engineering and applied tasks. At present the detection of extremely low levels of light is carried out with CCD’s, vacuum photomultiplier tubes- PMTs or Hybrid Photon Detectors- HPDs. PMT’s and HPD’s enable obtaining fast time information on the detected light, which is necessary in many applications in different fields of science and engineering, especially in elementary particle and nuclear physics experiments. The time resolution limit for currently used PMTs or HPDs for detection of single photoelectron is about 10-10 sec or 100 ps.

However, it is well known that timing systems based on radio frequency (RF) fields can provide much better time resolution on the order of ~ several ps. Streak cameras, based on similar principles, provided ps temporal resolution. But, commercially available streak cameras provide integral or slow information and they did not find wide application in past, including the field of elementary particle and nuclear physics experiments, important for us.

Recent R&D work (A. Margaryan, ISTC Project A-372) has resulted in a sensitive 500 MHz circular sweep RF deflector for keV energy electrons. The sensitivity of this new RF deflector is an order of magnitude higher than sensitivity of RF deflectors used previously. Such a compact and sensitive high frequency RF deflector for keV energy electrons can find wide application in different photo-electronic devices. Meanwhile, the development of new sensor technologies have resulted a new position sensors for keV energy electrons, e.g. position sensitive microchannel plate based electron multipliers from Burle Industries Inc., USA, providing better than 0.5 mm position resolution for single electrons. It is believed that the essential progress in this field can be reached by combination of a new RF deflector design created at YerPhI with new technologies for position sensors. In particular, such a combination can result in a new photon detector and timing system for elementary particle and nuclear physics experiments, as well as for optical imaging applications in biomedical sciences.

Project and Expected Scientific Technological Progress: As a result of this project, a new generation of photo-electronic devices and new time measurement system based on RF technique will be developed. The temporal resolution of this new technique for single photoelectrons will be in the range of 10-11 -10-12 sec.

Competence of Project Participants: A group of high quality specialists is created to perform the project. Almost all of them were involved into activities immediately bordering the project’s field, namely: experimental nuclear physics, time and position measurement in nuclear physics, various types of position sensors for keV energy electrons, front-end electronics, readout systems, data acquisition and data analysis, Cherenkov and transition radiations, Monte Carlo simulations. New sensitive RF deflector has been proposed and implemented by the project participants. The project research team involves 13 Candidates of Sciences and 5 Doctors of Sciences. The most part of them were earlier engaged in the defense projects of former soviet union (FSU).

Expected Results and Their Application: The following results will be obtained as an outcome of this project. The compact and easy-to-use prototypes of new photon detectors and time measuring system in the picosecond domain will be created. It is also planed to develop the design and to construct Cherenkov time-of-flight (ToF) counters on the basis of these new photon detectors and to test them in real experimental conditions at Tohoku University, Japan and at CEBAF, TJNAF, USA. It is expected that the time resolution of Cherenkov ToF counters will be better than 10-11 and they can be used at CEBAF, TJNAF in all three Halls and in the future 12 GeV program to identify particle types.

It is foreseen to investigate the optical imaging technique based on new photon detectors and timing method for applications to diffuse optical tomography (DOT) and high energy gamma astronomy. The clinical potential of optical transillumination has been known for many years, and stems from the fact that the relative attenuation of light in tissue at some near-infrared wavelengths is related to the global concentration of certain metabolites in their oxygenated and deoxygenated states. Thus an optical imaging modality offers the promise of functional as well as structural information. Despite considerable recent interest in the problem, progress towards DOT has been inhibited by the lack of suitable instrumentation to acquire sufficient useful data in reasonable times. The proposed new picosecond photon detectors and timing system are ideally suited for such purposes.

Meeting ISTC Goals and Objectives: The activity on the Proposal will support basic and applied research and technology development exclusively for peaceful purposes. The Proposal will contribute to the solution of national and international technical problems; in particular, it will promote wider use of new optoelectronic systems with high temporal resolution in various peaceful applications and will reinforce the transition of the Laboratory employers to a market-based economy responsive to civil needs. The Project will help to integrate CIS scientists into the international scientific community and maintain their involvement and unique contribution to important technical and scientific problems.

Scope of Activities: The project duration is planned for 36 months. The total amount of effort will be 10 382 person-days. The solution of the three following interconnected tasks is planned:

  1. Theoretical studies, Development of Monte-Carlo codes, design and assembling of the test experimental set-ups;
  2. Design and construction of the prototype Picosecond Photon Detectors;
  3. Assembling and testing of Picosecond Photon Detectors in lab and in real experimental conditions.

The main directions of activities will be concentrated on development of the prototypes of a new compact and easy in operation photon detectors based on RF timing technique for: high energy particle and nuclear physics experiments and breast cancer noninvasive optical diagnostics.

Role of Collaborator: Cooperation with foreign collaborators is expected to be in the following forms: systematic information exchange and discussions; shared use of experimental facilities and devices while carrying out joint research relevant to RF timing technique; holding meetings and joint workshops; cross-checking of the results obtained in the course of the project activities; and preparation of joint scientific papers and reports.

Since the primary goal of this Project is to develop new Picosecond Photon Detector and timing system, which can find wide application in the future nuclear experiments at TJNAF, the TJNAF management and technical staff will provide an additional level of oversight and support for this activity.

Technical Approach and Methodology: The Project Participants will bring many years of their professional experience, as well as previously obtained results in the areas of detector physics and methods into the Project for its successful execution. Already verified technical solutions and components of RF deflectors will be used. For detection of keV energy electrons the most advanced technologies will be applied. The prototypes of new photon detectors will be created by using standard high vacuum components. The created technique and time measuring method will be tested in laboratory and in real experimental conditions at continuous wave (CW) electron beams, TJNAF (USA) and at Tohoku University (Japan) electron stretcher booster. The fine time structure of the TJNAF CW electron photon beams (1.67 ps duration bunches each 2 ns) is very suitable for testing and applying of this new timing technique.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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