The Centre for Electronic Imaging, industrially sponsored research benefiting the UK economy
Submitting InstitutionOpen University
Unit of AssessmentEarth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Physical Sciences: Atomic, Molecular, Nuclear, Particle and Plasma Physics, Other Physical Sciences
Technology: Communications Technologies
Summary of the impact
Professor Holland's group, the Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI), has a
long-established collaboration with UK-based imaging specialist e2v that
has enabled the company to grow its business in international space
missions and increase competitiveness. The CEI has helped develop e2v's
understanding of the processes at work in imaging sensors, and improved
image sensor designs and test methodologies. CEI has also studied space
radiation damage on the sensors, trained more than 30 engineers in testing
of e2v products, and was instrumental in the company's successful £3.8m
Regional Growth Fund award in 2012 — funding that will create around 100
jobs by 2016.
The Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI) is a research group led by
Professor Andrew Holland. Its members have been, and are, involved in
several international space missions including XMM-Newton, Chandra, Swift,
GAIA, Chandrayaan-1 and 2, UKube-1 and Euclid. The CEI is dedicated to the
research and development of advanced technologies for electronic image
sensing and provides knowledge exchange and training between the UK
technology industry and academia. The CEI is a collaboration between The
Open University and e2v Technologies plc, which provides sponsorship
contributing towards the support of PhD studentships and some of the
research positions. Being a research group within a university, the CEI
maintains academic independence, while the sponsorship and close
collaboration with e2v maintains industrial relevance and focus to the
The work of the CEI is to perform basic and applied research into silicon
imaging sensors. This research follows several key themes:
- Modelling, including 3D device simulation, of new structures within
imaging sensor technology. Key outputs were the understanding of how the
narrow channel effect can impact charge transfer, particularly in Gaia
and Euclid (Seabroke, Murray, Holland, Clarke, Stefanov; 2008-present).
- Design of new imaging sensors, and contributions to the design work
at e2v, for example contributing to the design of the CCD273 detector at
e2v for the Euclid mission where we recommended changes to the width of
the buried channel implant for improved space radiation hardness, and
have made inputs into modifications of the semiconductor processing of
polysilicon electrodes to provide greater control of clock phase
overlaps, leading to increased yield and manufacturability (Holland,
- Development of new test methodologies and new fundamental
understanding of the physical processes at work, for example providing
refinements to the mean variance, or photon transfer curve, test
technique (Murray) and the subsequent deviation from Poisson statistics
(Stefanov), and refining the knowledge of charge traps, and their
capture/release time constants on device operation through measurement
and modelling (Hall; 2008-present).
- The study of space radiation damage on the sensors, and its impact on
the scientific performance of instruments using the technology, with
many examples in publication (Gow, Holland, Hall, Murray), and an
exploration of the use of p-type silicon for improved radiation hardness
over n-type silicon (Gow, Murray; 2005-present).
References to the research
Holland, A.D. (1993) `The effect of bulk traps in proton
irradiated EEV CCDs', Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics
Research, A, vol. 326, pp. 335-43.
Katz, D., Munari, U., Cropper, M., Zwitter, T., Thévenin, F., David, M.,
Viala, Y., Crifo, F., Gomboc, A., Royer, F., Arenou, F., Marrese, P.,
Sordo, R., Wilkinson, M., Vallenari, A., Turon, C., Helmi, A., Bono, G.,
Perryman, M., Gómez, A., Tomasella, L., Boschi, F., Morin, D., Haywood,
M., Soubiran, C., Castelli, F., Bijaoui, A., Bertelli, G., Prsa, A.,
Mignot, S., Sellier, A., Baylac, M.-O., Lebreton, Y., Jauregi, U.,
Siviero, A., Bingham, R., Chemla, F., Coker, J., Dibbens, T., Hancock, B.,
Holland, A., Horville, D., Huet, J.-M., Laporte, P., Melse, T.,
Sayède, F., Stevenson, T.-J., Vola, P., Walton, D., Winter, B. (2004)
`Spectroscopic survey of the galaxy with Gaia — I. Design and performance
of the radial velocity spectrometer`, Monthly Notices of the Royal
Astronomical Society, vol. 354, pp. 1223-38.
Lowe, B.G., Holland, A.D., Hutchinson, I.B., Burt, D.J. and Pool,
P.J. (2001) `Swept charge device, a novel CCD-based EDX detector: First
results', Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section
A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment,
vol. 458, pp. 568-79. DOI: 10.1016/S0168-9002(00)00918-9.
McEntaffer, R.L., Murray, N.J., Holland, A., Lillie, C.,
Casement, S., Dailey, D., Johnson, T., Cash, W. and Oakley, P. (2009)
`Off-plane x-ray grating spectrometer for the international x-ray
observatory', Proceedings of SPIE — The International Society for
Optical Engineering, 7360.
Smith, D.R., Gow, J. and Holland, A.D. (2007) `Proton irradiation
of swept-charge devices for the Chandrayaan-1 X-ray Spectrometer (C1XS)',
Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section A:
Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment,
vol. 583, pp. 270-7.
Turner, M.J.L., Abbey, A., Arnaud, M., Balasini, M., Barbera, M.,
Belsole, E., Bennie, P.J., Bernard, J.P., Bignami, G.F., Boer, M., Briel,
U., Butler, I., Cara, C., Chabaud, C., Cole, R., Collura, A., Conte, M.,
Cros, A., Denby, M., Dhez, P., Di Coco, G., Dowson, J., Ferrando, P.,
Ghizzardi, S., Gianotti, F., Goodall, C.V., Gretton, L., Griffiths, R.G.,
Hainaut, O., Hochedez, J.F., Holland, A.D., Jourdain, E.,
Kendziorra, E., Lagostina, A., Laine, R., La Palombara, N., Lortholary,
M., Lumb, D., Marty, P., Molendi, S., Pigot, C., Poindron, E., Pounds,
K.A., Reeves, J.N., Reppin, C., Rothenflug, R., Salvetat, P., Sauvageot,
J.L., Schmitt, D., Sembay, S., Short, A.D.T., Spragg, J., Stephen, J.,
Strüder, L., Tiengo, A., Trifoglio, M., Trümper, J., Vercellone, S.,
Vigroux, L., Villa, G., Ward, M.J., Whitehead, S., Zonca, E. (2001) `The
European Photon Imaging Camera on XMM-Newton: The MOS cameras', Astronomy
and Astrophysics, vol. 365, pp. L27-L35.
Key grants supporting the work of the CEI:
2010-11: £45k for International X-ray Observatory (IXO) study and £75k
for a CASE studentship awarded by UKSO to Professor A. Holland for a
project entitled `Development of the Reflection Grating Spectrometer
concept for IXO'.
2012-16: £574,263 awarded by UKSA (via STFC) to Professor A. Holland for
project entitled `the Euclid mission implementation phase'.
2008-12: £760k awarded by STFC and later UKSA to Professor A. Holland for
a project entitled `Gaia Data Flow System'.
2013-18: £1.5m awarded by UKSA to Professor A. Holland for a project
entitled `The CMOS Image Sensors for the JANUS camera on JUICE'.
2012-15: £335k from e2v/BIS awarded to Professor A. Holland for project
entitled `research and development of CCD and CMOS Imaging Technology' as
part of a £3.8m Regional Growth Fund award to e2v for research,
development and expanded production at its Chelmsford headquarters.
Ongoing e2v sponsorship for the group:
2008-2013 Phase 1 £700k
2013-2018 Phase 2 £1m awarded by E2v to Professor A. Holland for
sponsorship of the CEI.
Details of the impact
The CEI research impact on the space sector of e2v imaging business takes
a number of forms ranging from modifications to fundamental understanding,
and may directly impact the work or instrument performance of a space
mission by enhancing performance which enables a telescope to see deeper
into the universe, or to hold a particular performance for longer while
operating in space where radiation damage limits equipment lifetimes.
One of the key impacts of CEI research and training is through support of
the collaborating company, where continued support provides an increase in
UK competitiveness, exports and job protection and job creation. This is
directly evidenced through the CEI involvement in the BIS Regional Growth
Fund grant to a value of £3.8m, where around 100 new jobs in the
high-performance space sector will be created. The e2v CEO Keith Attwood
was recently quoted in the CBI magazine saying:
`By rethinking how it can get more out of its technology across the
business — and working with the University of Nottingham and The Open
University — e2v has expanded the size of its potential markets from £2bn
to £3.5bn a year.'
An example of impact arising from the activity of the CEI in space
instrumentation is in ESA's Euclid project, where the work of the group
has led to changes in the electronics which drive the image sensors to
achieve up to a factor 2 times improvement in radiation hardness (and
hence making the instrument able to meet its performance specification
while in orbit in space, which otherwise would have suffered a degradation
beyond the scientific performance requirements). This work has primarily
occurred during 2011-2013.
A second example of impact is the CEI space-science research programme
which has created a tangible benefit to e2v is in the development of CMOS
image sensors (CIS) for space applications, in collaboration with e2v. As
a result of over six years of background research being conducted through
two consecutively sponsored PhD students, in 2013 CEI were awarded a
co-investigator role funded by the UK Space Agency to work with e2v to
develop and supply a new type of CMOS image sensor into the visible camera
consortium of ESA's JUICE mission, destined for Jupiter with launch 2022.
This grant from UKSA will provide a £1m contract to e2v for the sensor
supply, which we will then pass on to our collaborators in DLR-Germany.
Besides being a large industrial procurement contract, it will represent
one of the first high profile space missions to adopt this new technology,
which has been under development within e2v for eight years, and will act
to showcase the technology and its improvements over older technology, and
will lead to further overseas sales into the other space agencies around
A third example is work on the Gaia mission resulting in a 2013 Sir
Arthur Clarke Award for Space Achievement — Industry/Project Team, awarded
to e2v, for work on Gaia and other missions, where the OU CEI is working
as part of the High Performance Imaging Team at e2v.
Finally, CEI is undertaking more basic R&D into CIS which will yield
benefits further downstream. As a direct result of CEI underlying R&D,
in 2013 e2v has already submitted an initial Patent Application to support
our development of thicker detectors which will improve sensitivity at
wavelengths in the IR and X-ray ranges. This patent will be used as part
of e2v's Patent Box to protect its business interests, improve
competitiveness, and win more contracts in these areas.
A separate but key form of CEI impact has been PhD and CPD-level
professional training that resulted in nine industrially-sponsored CASE
students achieving PhDs since 2008, with all of them going on to full-time
employment in science research and high-technology companies, with a
further three students due to complete in the coming year, and a further
six being trained mid-PhD. In the last 12 months CEI has also trained 13
external professionals at a `CCD Basics Workshop', a three-day on-site
residential training course, where organisations such as ESA and SSTL
(Astrium) consider the course as an option for their engineers' personal
In summary, the work with the CEI industrial sponsor, e2v, has many
spillover benefits to UK industry which helps competitiveness, winning new
contracts, and training scientists and engineers and thus secure jobs
within the UK economy. These additional benefits might arise for example
through recommendation of a minor process modification during manufacture,
or through achieving a deeper understanding of the processes at work in
the sensors, which may then be communicated to potential customers,
helping secure future contracts.
Sources to corroborate the impact
External sources corroborating impact:
- E2v CEO statement about the significance of winning the Regional
Growth Fund grant in 2012 with the Open University and Rutherford
- Over 20 documents on CCD damage lodged on the ESA Livelink system
available on request.
- Winner of 2013 Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Space Achievement —
Industry/Project Team, awarded to e2v, for work on Gaia, and other
missions, where the OU CEI is working as part of the High Performance
Imaging Team at e2v (http://www.bis-space.com/2013/07/17/11367/sir-arthur-clarke-awards-2013-winners)
- E2v CEO presentation on the benefits of a high performance technology
company having strategic partnership with the Open Univeristy. (http://epc.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Keith-Attwood-EPC-conf-KDA-4-13-v3.pdf)
Beneficiaries who could be contacted to corroborate impact:
- Chief Design Engineer, e2v Techologies PLC
- Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, Manchester University
- Group Chief Technology Officer, e2v Techologies PLC
- Euclid VIS Principal Investigator, Mullard Space Science
Laboratory/University College London
- Head of Space Science, United Kingdom Space Agency