NIKA: A millimeter-wave kinetic inductance camera

A. Monfardini*, L. J. Swenson, A. Bideaud, F. X. Desert, S. J. C. Yates, A. Benoit, Andrei Barychev, J. J. A. Baselmans, S. Doyle, B. Klein, M. Roesch, C. Tucker, P. Ade, M. Calvo, P. Camus, C. Giordano, R. Guesten, C. Hoffmann, S. Leclercq, P. MauskopfK. F. Schuster

*Corresponding author for this work

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Context. Current generation millimeter wavelength detectors suffer from scaling limits imposed by complex cryogenic readout electronics. These instruments typically employ multiplexing ratios well below a hundred. To achieve multiplexing ratios greater than a thousand, it is imperative to investigate technologies that intrinsically incorporate strong multiplexing. One possible solution is the kinetic inductance detector (KID). To assess the potential of this nascent technology, a prototype instrument optimized for the 2 mm atmospheric window was constructed. Known as the Neel IRAM KID Array (NIKA), it has recently been tested at the Institute for Millimetric Radio Astronomy (IRAM) 30-m telescope at Pico Veleta, Spain.

Aims. There were four principle research objectives: to determine the practicality of developing a giant array instrument based on KIDs, to measure current in-situ pixel sensitivities, to identify limiting noise sources, and to image both calibration and scientifically-relevant astronomical sources.

Methods. The detectors consisted of arrays of high-quality superconducting resonators electromagnetically coupled to a transmission line and operated at similar to 100 mK. The impedance of the resonators was modulated by incident radiation; two separate arrays were tested to evaluate the efficiency of two unique optical-coupling strategies. The first array consisted of lumped element kinetic inductance detectors (LEKIDs), which have a fully planar design properly shaped to enable direct absorbtion. The second array consisted of antenna-coupled KIDs with individual sapphire microlenses aligned with planar slot antennas. Both detectors utilized a single transmission line along with suitable room-temperature digital electronics for continuous readout.

Results. NIKA was successfully tested in October 2009, performing in line with expectations. The measurement resulted in the imaging of a number of sources, including planets, quasars, and galaxies. The images for Mars, radio star MWC349, quasar 3C345, and galaxy M87 are presented. From these results, the optical NEP was calculated to be around 1x10(-15) W/Hz(1/2). A factor of 10 improvement is expected to be readily feasible by improvements in the detector materials and reduction of performance-degrading spurious radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Number of pages6
JournalAstronomy & astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2010


  • instrumentation: detectors
  • submillimeter: general

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