We propose a compact imaging and particle-tracking device, named INSTANT, consisting of a complete detection and image processing system, from pixel sensors to data processing electronics. It provides very high time (10ps) and space (10μm) resolution per pixel. Embedded data processing for data compression and real-time reconstruction of the recorded events is also a key ingredient of INSTANT.
By construction, the device is extremely robust against radiation dose and particle fluence and suitable to be used in very harsh radiation environments (up to 1017 1 MeV neutron equivalent per cm2 and some Grad). No existing state-of-the art imaging and tracking device is capable to satisfy at the same time such requirements about space and time resolution, radiation hardness and complex data handling.
INSTANT is based on 3D silicon sensors, optimised for high time resolution. Besides sensor design and optimisation, fully exploiting the fast timing properties of such sensors poses the need of implementing a complex pixel front-end, integrating the readout chain, from a fast amplifier to a Time-to-Digital-Converter in a very small area. This also has been never achieved in a particle tracking system. The usage of new CMOS technology nodes (28nm or 16nm CMOS) is necessary to make effective the development of a sensor with superior space-time resolution.
Developing an ultra-fast, ultra-small-pitch pixel implies also the production of a large amount of information to be read-out and processed. The traditional separation between front-end and back-end electronics is inadequate to such a complex system. Pre-processing of data, machine-learning real time techniques for information analysis have to be integrated at the very early stages of the read-out chain.
Full real time reconstruction of extremely complex images or events is the final output of INSTANT. The ground philosophy of the project is that such an objective is reachable in a decade from now only facing the challenge at the system level.
Our INSTANT device can be considered as a video-camera for ionising radiation having capability of up to 100G frames per second (fps) and very high radiation resistance. Such a device can have a very wide field of applications. Its main and starting use is in high-luminosity, high-pile-up collider experiments, where high resolution timing at the pixel level will be a must in order to fully exploit the high rate production of high energy events. It has also important applications in medical physics, such as PET and hadrotherapy. It can have an effective use in the study of mechanical properties of materials and in precise monitoring and study of fast neutron sources such as fusion reactors.