CMOS Time-Domain Imager for Functional Brain Imaging Using Gated Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

Tuesday, May 13, 2014: 16:40
Sarasota, Ground Level (Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek)
H. Alhemsi and M. J. Deen (McMaster University)
Non-invasive imaging of brain activity enables novel studies in neuroscience and provides an alternative modality for clinical monitoring applications. Near-infrared spectroscopic imaging (NIRSI) is non-invasive, cheap, portable, and immune to electro-magnetic interference. NIRSI is also superior in terms of spatial or temporal resolution when compared to electro-encephalography (EEG) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), respectively. Utilizing the time-domain (TD) technique offers the richest information at the cost of being the most complex[1]. TD NIRS imagers utilize time-correlated single-photon-counting (TCSPC) measurements which require detectors with single-photon sensitivity like single-photon avalanche diodes (SPADs)[2] or Silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) and very fast time-discriminators like time-discriminator circuits (TDCs). Implementing these circuits in well-established and mature CMOS technologies[3] is advantageous.
The main challenges in designing a TD NIRSI sensor deal with four issues: spectral responsivity, noise, fill-factor, and throughput. The spectral responsivity and noise are shaped by the technology process and structure (see figure 2) of the SPAD[4]. The fill-factor is determined by the ancillary circuitry needed to maintain the TD operation of the SPAD[4] (i.e., frontend, gating, and TDC). The throughput is dependent on the readout architecture of the array of pixels.
We are proposing a fully integrated scalable array of time-gated actively-quenched SPADs with shared time-gated ring-oscillator-based TDCs following H-tree-based architecture and a 3-transistor active-pixel sensor (3T APS) readout scheme with in-pixel storage capability to be implemented using standard deep sub-micron CMOS technology. For example, using 130 nm CMOS technology SPADs can be built with an area of 50 um2 which exhibit a dark count rate (DCR) of 18 KHz[5]. At a wavelength around 600 nm and an excess bias of 2 V, their photon detection probability (PDP) could reach 22%. These SPADs breakdown at 20 V and could resolve down to 90 ps for wavelengths around 654 nm. With the same technology a 0.04 mm2 TDC can be designed with a resolution or least significant bit (LSB) of 6 ps for a range of 11-bits[6]. Moreover, SPAD structure variations, novel gating schemes, smart resource sharing, and efficient array architecture a CMOS TD NIRSI sensor can be realized to meet requirements of functional human brain imaging applications.


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