Electron multiplying CCD image sensor (EM-CCD)

An electron multiplier (EM) CCD has a similar structure to a frame transfer CCD, but with a special multiplication register between the horizontal register and the output amplifier. The EM-CCD has two separate but equal regions, one with pixels exposed to the incoming photons and another equal region (storage area) that is entirely masked to eliminate photons from being detected. The signal in the detection area is transferred to the storage area and then multiplied in the multiplication register through a process called impact ionization.
The advantage of an EM-CCD is that signal charges in the CCD are multiplied in the multiplication register. This raises ultra-low signals to levels above the camera’s noise so the signal can be detected.

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An EM-CCD chip is heavily cooled to reduce dark noise and increasing electron multiplier gain. In order to improve cooling performance, the chip is mounted inside of hermetic vacuum-sealed chamber utilizing Hamamatsu vacuum tube technology established for photomultiplier tube production.

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