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iXon Ultra EMCCD Cameras for Physical Science

With the single photon sensitive iXon Ultra EMCCD cameras, Andor have delivered a dedicated, truly high-end, yet accessible scientific camera platform, designed specifically to drive the absolute best from ultra-sensitive EMCCD technology across all critical performance specs and parameters.

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iXon Ultra EMCCD Camera Model Options

Models iXon Ultra 888 iXon Ultra 897
Core attributes Field of view, sensitivity and speed Sensitivity and speed
Sensor format 1024 x 1024 512 x 512
Sensor diagonal 18.8 mm 11.6 mm
Read Noise < 1 e- with EM Gain  < 1 e- with EM Gain
Cooling -95°C -100°C
Darkcurrent 0.00011 e-/pixel/sec 0.00015 e-/pixel/sec
Spurious Background (CIC) 0.005 events/pixel 0.0018 events/pixel
QE Options BV, EX2, UVB BV, EX2, UVB
Frame Rate 26 fps (670 fps with 128 x 128 Crop Mode)  56 fps (595 fps with 128 x 128 Crop Mode)
Pixel well depth 80,000 e- 180,000 e-
Interface USB 3.0 USB 2.0
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iXon Ultra EMCCD Camera Applications

Quantum Entanglement

Imaging studies of quantum entangled photon systems require ultrasensitive array detectors that are capable of registering and counting single photon events and photon pairs with superb discrimination from background noise events. Experimental workflow is furthermore enhanced through the ability to image with a rapid frame rate, thus accelerating the rate of image construction through photon counting.

Andor strongly recommends the iXon Ultra back-illuminated EMCCD camera series for correlated biphoton imaging experiments, a well-established solution for high throughput, single photon detection. With deep vacuum cooling down to -100°C and minimized spurious noise sources, the iXon Ultra provides the single photon and photon pair discrimination required for successful, high throughout detection in these most demanding of photon starved experiments.

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Ultracold Quantum Gases, BEC & Trapped Ions

The iXon Ultra has for many years been the detector of choice in ultracold quantum degenerate gas and trapped ion experiments. With EMCCD and CCD amplifiers, the camera can be readily adapted to both fluorescence and absorption BEC set-ups. Single-photon sensitivity, even under fast frame rate operation, coupled with > 90% QE, enables imaging of very small numbers of discrete trapped atoms or ions.

‘Fast Kinetics Mode’ enables imaging with microsecond dynamics, allowing time of flight measurements of BEC clouds. Furthermore, the iXon Ultra can be optimized for enhanced NIR detection and/or fringe suppression, along with a custom AR-coated entrance window.

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Speckle Imaging and High Speed Astronomy

iXon EMCCDs are ideally suited to techniques which use large numbers of images to effectively freeze the variations caused by atmospheric turbulence. Shift and Add techniques such as Lucky Imaging, as well as Speckle Interferometry, can improve spatial resolution well beyond the practical limits set by atmospheric imaging and has proven very effective in resolving binary stars, for example. 

Furthermore, fast and ultrasensitive detection is often required for high cadence photometric and astrometric studies, for example in study of Pulsars. Suited to these approaches, iXon Ultra offers fast frame rates combined with sub-electron readout noise, > 90% QE across a broad spectral range, as well as offering fringe suppression options for imaging in NIR photometric bands.

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Guide Cameras

iXon EMCCDs have been employed as guide cameras in high profile observing projects worldwide, benefiting from the ability to take low noise images with shorter exposure durations. The iXon Ultra 888 has been selected as the guide camera on SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (right). 

It has also been used to superb effect on the 2m-Alfred-Jensch-Telescope. In each of the above examples, the iXon camera performance has been so convincing that it has also been adapted for use as the primary science camera for visible observations.

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Fast Hyperspectral Imaging

iXon EMCCD is an ideal detector for fast hyperspectral imaging, for example in combination with a liquid crystal tuneable filter for narrow wavelength filtering or a dispersive spectrograph for fast point by point mapping.

Such approaches typically involve a combination of short exposure times and weak signal (especially in the case of Raman scatter) and the fast readout, ultra-sensitivity of iXon Ultra is an ideal detector solution.

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Ultimate Photon Counting EMCCD Solution

The single photon sensitive iXon Ultra EMCCD represents the best rapid imaging detector for knowing with a very high degree of certainty whether a photon has been detected in a pixel, especially critical for quantum entanglement experiments. Back-illuminated EMCCD remains the leading technology for determining one from zero.

  • Detect > 90% of photon events – single photon sensitivity and > 90% QE
  • Discriminate correlated photons – from -100°C cooling and minimized spurious noise events
  • Arrays up to 1 megapixel – massively parallel detection of quantum correlations
  • Fast Count Rates – up to hundreds of fps for accelerated measurement rates
  • Biphoton detection – superb charge transfer efficiency for discrimination of photon pairs in adjacent pixels

‘2 in 1’ Flexibility

Both iXon Ultra models offer ‘2 in 1’ performance flexibility, operating either as a single photon EMCCD or a low noise conventional CCD, readily user-selectable through software. Such versatility is attractive in laboratories that can require the camera to operate in low light conditions under both fast and slow frame rate conditions. In photon starved applications, choosing the EMCCD amplifier usually yields better signal to noise ratio when under faster frame rates conditions (> 1 fps), whereas often the CCD amplifier can yield better signal to noise ratio when longer exposures can be applied and when the sensor can be read out slowly (i.e. ‘seconds per frame’ rather than ‘frames per second’).

However, in either EMCCD or CCD configuration, a special ‘Fast Kinetics’ capability can be accessed to collect bursts of data with microsecond time resolution. This can be useful in BEC experiments, for example, to measure time-of-flight rapid cloud dynamics immediately after the MOT is turned off.

Single Photon Sensitive 3 to 6 e- read noise
Multiplication noise No Multiplication noise
Faster frame rates possible Restricted to slower frame rates

The basic trade-offs between EMCCD and conventional CCD amplifiers

Broad QE Profile

Delivering over 95% peak QE and offering broad coverage from UV through to NIR, iXon Ultra spectral response is suited to a wide range of science; from NIR photometry of cold dwarf stars, to quantum optics of degenerate gases, to imaging of ion traps. Fringe suppression options are available for NIR imaging with reduced etaloning.

The new ‘BB’ sensor option offers up to 20% higher sensitivity to photons across the blue region of the spectrum, ideal for fast imaging of quantum trapped ions, an important quantum computing qubit approach.

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