First Advisor

Erik Bodegom

Date of Publication

Fall 11-14-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physics






Image processing -- Digital techniques, Imaging systems -- Image quality, Charge coupled devices, Complementary metal oxide semiconductors



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 126 pages)


Dark current is an unwanted source of noise in images produced by digital imagers, the de facto standard of imaging. The two most common types of digital imager architectures, Charged-Coupled Devices (CCDs) and Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS), are both prone to this noise source. To accurately reflect the information from light signals this noise must be removed. This practice is especially vital for scientific purposes such as in astronomical observations.

Presented in this dissertation are characterizations of dark current sources that present complications to the traditional methods of correction. In particular, it is observed that pixels in both CCDs and CMOS image sensors produce dark current that is affected by the presence of pre-illuminating the sensor and that these same pixels produce a nonlinear dark current with respect to exposure time. These two characteristics are not conventionally accounted for as it is assumed that the dark current produced will be unaffected by charge accumulated from either illumination or the dark current itself.

Additionally, a model reproducing these dark current characteristics is presented. The model incorporates a moving edge of the depletion region, where charge is accumulated, as well as fixed recombination-generation locations. Recombination-generation sites in the form of heavy metal impurities, or lattice defects, are commonly the source of dark current especially in the highest producing pixels, commonly called "hot pixels." The model predicts that pixels with recombination-generation sites near the edge of an empty depletion region will produce less dark current after accumulation of charge, accurately modeling the behavior observed from empirical sources.

Finally, it is shown that activation energy calculations will produce inconsistent results for pixels with the presence of recombination-generation sites near the edge of a moving depletion region. Activation energies, an energy associated with the temperature dependence of dark current, are often calculated to characterize aspects of the dark current including types of impurities and sources of dark current. The model is shown to generate data, including changing activation energy values, that correspond with changing activation energy calculations in those pixels observed to be affected by pre-illumination and that produce inconsistent dark current over long exposure times.

Rather than only being a complication to dark current correction, the presence of such pixels, and the model explaining their behavior, presents an opportunity to obtain information, such as the depth of these recombination-generation sites, which will aid in refining manufacturing processes for digital imagers.


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