Press Release November 15, 2017

ZephIR cameras for scientific and industrial applications – COOLING SWIR SENSORS – Why a TE4 air-cooled camera?


Dark current is a critical parameter when one is looking to acquire a scientific and/or industrial imaging camera, especially in the short-wave infrared (SWIR) region. Very careful attention must be paid to the cooling method used to optimize this parameter.
Multiple cooling technologies are available, each having certain benefits and drawbacks. In its new ZephIR line of SWIR cameras, Photon etc. uses a four stage thermoelectric(TE4) air-cooled system to enhance the sensitivity of its imaging sensors.

The ZephIR 1.7 is an InGaAs camera sensitive in the 800 nm to 1700 nm range. The ZepIR 2.5 and 2.9 are HgCdTe cameras sensitive in the 0.85 μm to 2.5 μm and 0.85 μm to 2.9 μm ranges respectively. With their integrated TE4 air-cooled systems, these cameras reach an operating temperature of -80 °C and possess dark currents of 300 e-/p/s s (ZephIR 1.7), 30 Me-p/s (ZephIR 2.5) and 340 Me-/p/s (ZephIR 2.9).

OVERVIEW OF COOLING METHODS – Thermoelectric Cooling

Thermoelectric (TE) stages are solid-state devices composed of two differents faces. Those stages uses Peltier effect to generate a temperature difference between the two faces. Semiconductors with different electron densities, n-type and p-type, are placed in series and connected with a conducting material on each side. The passage of an electrical current through the junction induces a heat flow from one face to the other, creating a cold and a hot side. The cold face absorbs heat which is carried to the other side where the heat sink is located. TE stages are usually connected side by side and sandwiched in two insulators. Water or air cooling is typically used to dissipate the heat accumulated in this process. The temperature that can be reached by
TE coolers is related to the number of stages being used. Hence, for more effective cooling, it is possible to stack several stages. This is the  case of Photon etc’s SWIR sensors, where four thermoelectric stages are cascaded together to lower the temperature. With four stages, a ΔT* of 120 °C can be reached. This results in a detector operating temperature of -80 °C (193 K) with proper heat extraction, at 25 °C ambient  temperature.

Stirling coolers based devices operate on a closed Stirling cycle where a nearly ideal gas (usually helium) is being repeatedly compressed and expanded. In order to obtain the change in pressure and temperature of the gas, two pistons are required: a displacer which put alternatively the gas in contact with a cold and hot reservoir and a working piston which is moved by the expansionand compression of the gas. A regenerator is also required and act as an internal heat exchanger. Following the Ideal Gas Law, heat from the surrounding is being absorbed by the expanded gas during the expansion which makes it colder. When the gas is being compressed, heat is ejected from the gas to the atmosphere.

Four steps are needed in an ideal cycle:

1. Isothermal compression: heat ejected.
2. Isochoric process: the system is kept a constant volume. Heat is rejected to the regenerator.
3. Isothermal expansion: heat is absorbed by the gas.
4. Isochoric process: the system is kept a constant volume. Heat is absorbed from the regenerator. Stirling cooled detectors can reach -210 °C (63 K).

Detectors can also be cooled with liquid nitrogen to reach -196 °C (77 K). In liquid nitrogen cooled system, the detector is placed in a cryostat that holds a dewar where the liquid nitrogen is stored. Different type of detector chamber are available. The detector can be connected to a copper cold finger inserted in the dewar. The finger carry the heat from the detector to the liquid nitrogen tank.


Each cooling method possess its advantages and downsides, the application will dictate the appropriate approach. Liquid nitrogen is used, for example, with MCT sensors working in the long wavelength infrared (LWIR – 8-15 μm) range to reduce thermal noise. It is also used for application requiring high cooling capacity and stability. Liquid nitrogen cooled sensor also possess long lifetime and relatively low initial cost. The main disadvantage is the regular need of liquid nitrogen supply, the limited autonomy and the time required to stabilize the temperature.

› Compact
› No moving parts
› Highly reliable
› Long lifetime
› No maintenance
› Low dark current
› Low readout noise

Unlike Stirling coolers, TE stages do not possess moving parts, which is a significant advantage for the overall durability and maintenance needs of the camera. No moving parts also means no vibration, which is perfectly suited for high magnification SWIR microscopy. Because of their long lifetime and reliability, TE cooled cameras are ideal for industrial process control or any other applications implying long cycles of  operation.

Their small size is ideal to manufacture compact sensors that can be easily installed in either academic laboratories or industrial

An air-cooled system does not require a continuous flow of cold water in the camera. This greatly facilitates its integration in various environments.

The small bandgap of InGaAs (~0.75 eV at room temperature) and even smaller bandgap of HgCdTe (~0.15-0.43 eV) imply that electrons will be more likely to reach the conduction band and contribute to the dark current. For this reason, sensors based on InGaAs or HgCdTe possess a high intrinsic dark current at room temperature. For example, the dark current of InGaAs-based sensors approximately triples with every 10 ˚C increase. Cooling these sensors is crucial to attaining a good dynamic range and higher sensitivity. Photon etc. has thus integrated a four stage Peltier module into their cameras reaching-80 °C, a temperature
which significantly lowers the dark current of the camera. The ZephIR 1.7 dark current is typically 300 e-/pix/sec. Stirling cooling also provides really low temperature and offers a good solution for applications requiring long acquisition time with low dark current or low power consumption. Stirling cooling is efficient and compact however, it induces vibration, it has a limited lifetime and high initial cost to which rework cost need to be added later on. In industries where long life time and easy maintenance are essential, thermoelectric cooling seems to be the best suited option. It is also vibration-less and user friendly when compared to Stirling and LN2 cooling respectively, two advantages that are also often mandatory in advanced scientific imaging. This is why Photon etc. decided to go in this direction for its ZephIR line of cameras.

The suitable cooling method strongly depends on the application. ZephIR TE4 air-cooled systems are best suited for industrial application as well as demanding scientific imaging. This cooling system is more reliable, simpler and less expensive than other available cooling technologies. The TE4 cooled ZephIR InGaAs and HgCdTe are ideal cameras for state-of-the-art scientific research and a wide variety of industrial applications. They are perfectly suited for hyperspectral microscopy, fast broadband imaging, line-scanning systems, industrial sorting and quality control, thus broadening Photon etc’s scientific solutions to the
SWIR spectral window.

Photon etc. is represented by MD INNOVATION TECH GmbH, D-95659 Arzberg,, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, parts of South and East Europe.


Press Release October 12, 2017

MD INNOVATION TECH GMBH presents the innovative Vortran Stradus®  laser diode modules series


Flow cytometry and Cell Sorting has come a long way since Wolfgang Göhde invented the first fluorescence based system in 1968 at the University of Münster in Germany.  Since then flow cytometers have progressed from the large slow systems using gas lasers into very expensive, multi-wavelength, multi-assay, complex institutional systems. The last few years have seen systems now headed in the direction of single assay clinical applications which are less flexible but more economical with faster turnaround time for critical diagnostics.  The advancements of laser technology including the various colors of direct diodes (488nm and 532nm especially) are opening the door for highly advanced but simplified platforms that require cost effective solutions meeting performance demands, cost requirements, and long term reliability.

The VersaLase™ system, the Stradus® laser, or the Stradus® Lite are optimal for the various platforms being utilized today and the flexibility of this platform lends itself to future designs.  The VersaLase™ system is a multi-wavelength and highly stable platform that is pre-aligned to a collinear beam or can be spatially separated depending on the application.  The single interface and ease of control along with the reliable beam output make it the perfect solution for a multi-channel system to reduce the cost of aligning various individual lasers during manufacturing.

The Stradus® Laser, with the wavelength flexibility of UV through the visible to the near IR, is the flexible platform to easily integrate multiple illumination wavelengths with the knowledge of a stable, reliable and low optical noise source for reliable fluorescence signal detection.

The Stradus® Lite was specifically designed to meet the lower cost but equally demanding clinical flow cytometry market.  The laser is built using the reliable standard Stradus® laser technology but at ¼ the size and ½ the platform cost of the full size module.  It is the perfect solution to reduce costs while still having the performance required for reliable diagnostic data.


Press Release September 30, 2017

ZephIR – A New Camera Against Cancer

In the fight against cancer, researchers can now count on a new weapon in the truest sense of the word:
The brand-new ZephIR infrared camera, developed by our partner Photon Etc, is precise and efficient enough to see through the skin. The ZephIR infrared camera offers a higher resolution than magnetic resonance imaging, does not require manipulation of radioactive products like other medical imaging techniques and is less invasive.
Infrared light penetrates a few centimeters into the skin. One or two centimeters are still very good to see. At first sight this seems to be little, but it is already sufficient to help researchers in preclinical studies in mice. The small size of the rodents makes it possible to examine some of their organs directly.

In humans, the ZephIR camera could be used in combination with nanoprobes. For example, a customer has developed nanoprobes that are not yet approved on the market. If these nanoprobes are placed in the blood, the color changes, depending on the concentration of the microRNA that surrounds them. The presence of microRNAs may give appropriate evidence of cancer; so that the zephyr camera can detect the disease by observing the blood in a blood vessel near the body surface.

One of the largest customers of this highly efficient Zephir infrared camera is the cancer research center in New York.


In the medium term, the Zephir camera can be used to analyze biopsies in immunotherapeutic treatments. These treatments must be calibrated for each individual case, based on the various biological information collected by means of biopsies. However, it is often difficult to obtain all the necessary information using the current equipment. The ZephIR camera allows up to 17 colors (frequency bands) during an analysis – in comparison, the well-known competitors offer only 7 colors.


Press Release May, 5, 2017

MD INNOVATION TECH GmbH  is proud to introduce the new SWIR cameras of their partner Photon etc

Photon etc. announces the official launch of their new ZephIR camera line. That infrared camera series encompasses InGaAs and MCT super sensitive detectors up to a wavelength of 1.7 μm, 2.5 μm or 2.9 μm. These high grade and state-of-the-art cameras will allow for new and considerable discoveries in multiple fields such as in life sciences as well as in the recycling and green energy industries.
The ZephIR collect fast images with a reading frequency of 345 FPS while also offering a very low dark current and signal to noise ratio. They are cooled at -80 °C using an innovative system based on four Peltier thermoelectric modules. That cooling technology is making the ZephIR cameras really reliable since it requires almost no maintenance and is very long-lasting hence out beating current competitive technologies on the market. These advantages make the ZephIR cameras ideal candidates for industrial applications. The sensitivity and reading frequency of the ZephIRs are also huge assets for the fundamental and preclinical biomedical research fields. “Our cameras are now seamlessly adapted for spectroscopy, biology or industrial quality control, screening and sorting applications” said the president and executive director of Photon etc., Sébastien Blais-Ouellette.
The development of these infrared cameras was made possible by Photon etc.’s brand new and unique installations. A complete manufacturing chain has been created internally, from cryogenic encapsulation all the way to the final camera product. This vertical integration allows to control the ZephIR’s quality at every single production step and to optimize them for targeted applications.
Photon etc.’s main expertise is primarily related to microscopy and wide field hyperspectral imaging solutions. The arrival of the ZephIR cameras greatly enhances and upgrades the imaging capabilities of the many instruments offered by Photon etc. “The ZephIRs can easily be integrated to both our IMA IR microscopy and IR Vivo preclinical imagers as well as to our line-scan system used for industrial sorting. When coupled to these hyperspectral imaging systems and specific nanoprobes the ZephIRs have the power to look deeper in animal and eventually human tissues paving the way to great possibilities for medical diagnosis,” said Mr. Sébastien Blais-Ouellette, Managing Director of Photon etc.