Advanced Imaging

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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Low Cost Cooled CCDs

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The challenge: to support a wide range of CCD architectures using a single hardware and software interface, all at the lowest prices possible and without compromise to performance. The benefit: OEMs wanting to offer a wide variety of price points only need to support a single platform, whether the operating system is Windows, Linux or Mac OSX.

Since its inception in 1993, Apogee Instruments Inc. of Roseville, California, has been aggressively pushing down the costs of cooled CCD technology for life sciences, astronomy, forensics, fundus imaging and radiometry. Their newest product line, the Ascent, addresses the needs of high volume OEMs by delivering a compact camera platform which maintains 100 percent software compatibility with previous generations of Apogee cameras, as well as cutting costs to a fraction of the current Alta Series cameras.

The new Ascent Series provides several major steps forward in low cost cooled CCD imaging. First of all, Apogee has condensed the lessons learned from more than a dozen years of designing electronics for low light, low noise and low dark current imaging into a package of about one third the volume of the Alta. Despite the Ascent’s compact size, its cooling capacity is much deeper than other low cost cameras. Features such as internal sequencing, TDI, kinetics, shutter strobing and external triggering are preserved. At the same time, the Ascent line adds dual channel 16-bit high-speed readout for high speed interline CCD operation.

The Ascent weighs in at 21 ounces and has a footprint of 3.2” x 5.7” with a thickness of only 1.25”. The Ascent supports the Kodak Interline CCDs up to 11Mpixels; Kodak Full Frame devices up to 3.2Mpixels; Hamamatsu back illuminated CCDs up to 2048 x 506 for spectroscopic or linear applications; and the TC247 EMCCD for ultra low light level applications. Despite its small size, the Ascent cools the CCD to >30C below ambient. The Ascent has also been designed for liquid recirculation or forced air assist which brings the CCD temperature delta to >40C below ambient. The back focal distance on the Ascent is only 0.32”, giving more flexibility to the user when interfacing to other optical systems. The Ascent operates from a single +5V power supply and can be easily integrated into other systems.

A low cost, compact high speed filter wheel which requires no additional power or interfacing has also been designed for the Ascent. The filter wheel supports four 1” filters up to 4mm thick.

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