Team 1: Mathematical Challenges in High-Throughput Microcalorimeter Spectroscopy

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 9:40am - 10:00am
Bradley Alpert (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
In recent years, microcalorimeter sensor systems have been developed at NIST, NASA, and elsewhere to measure the energy of single photons in every part of the electromagnetic spectrum, from microwaves to gamma rays. These microcalorimeters have demonstrated relative energy resolution, depending on the energy band, of better than 3 x 10^(-4), providing dramatic new capabilities for scientific and forensic investigations. They rely on superconducting transition-edge sensor (TES) thermometers and derive their exquisite energy resolution from the low thermal noise at typical operating temperatures near 0.1 K. They also function in exceptionally broad energy bands compared to other sensor technologies. At present, the principal limitation of this technology is its relatively low throughput, due to two causes: (1) limited collection area, which is being remedied through development of large sensor arrays; and (2) nonlinearity of detector response to photons arriving in rapid succession. Both introduce mathematical challenges, due to variations in sensor dynamics, nonstationarity of noise when detector response nears saturation, crosstalk between nearby or multiplexed sensors, and algorithm-dependent noise of multiplexing. Although there are certain inherent limitations on calibration data, this environment is extremely data-rich and we will exploit data to attack one of these mathematical challenges.