Infineon builds 8-in. particle detectors, one per wafer, for CERN

April 27, 2016 // By Graham Prophet
At CERN, a unique sensor chip may contribute to proving the existence (or otherwise) of dark matter: the detector is eight inches or 15 cm x 10 cm and was developed jointly by Infineon Technologies Austria and the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics (HEPHY).

Tens of thousands of these silicon components could be used at CERN in the near future. The detectors improve on prior devices in several respects. They are not only more economical to produce than previous sensors, which measured up to six inches. The components also stand up better to constant radiation and thus age slower than the previous generation. Planned experiments, such as those probing then highest energies for evidence of dark matter, will scarcely be possible without resistant sensors.

The experiments at CERN are analyzing the structure of matter and the interplay among elementary particles: Protons are accelerated almost to the speed of light and then made to collide, giving rise to new particles whose properties can be reconstructed with various detectors. “In particle physics and cosmology, there are many questions that are still open and to which mankind still has no answer,” says Dr. Manfred Krammer, head of the Experimental Physics Department at CERN. “To make new advances in these areas, we need a new generation of particle sensors. Cooperation with high-tech companies like Infineon allows us to develop the technologies we need for that.”


Two of the detectors for which the use of the Infineon sensors is currently being tested are named ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid). Particle physics experiments are huge cameras: When particles penetrate the silicon detectors, it registers them. With twenty meters (ATLAS) respectively fifteen metres (CMS) height both experiments are located 100 meters below ground. They have been in almost round-the-clock operation for years, carrying out 40 million individual experiments each second. The participants are currently discussing possible production of chips with a total area of up to 1,000m².

Details of the detector technology was not available at the time of publication, but prior technology has employed a scintillator layer (converting incident particle to flashes of light) atop a photo-sensitive matrix. Moving to a larger single detector