The project’s objectives are to conduct the development of a European R&D roadmap towards the ultimate low light-level (LLL) sensors, and to monitor and evaluate the progress of the developments with respect to the roadmap, to coordinate the R&D efforts of research groups and industry in advancing LLL sensors and liaise with strategically important European initiatives and research groups and companies world-wide, to transfer knowledge by initiating information and training events and material, and to disseminate information by suitable outreach activities.
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A coordination of European research groups concerned with low light-level sensors is currently missing. On a technology forum on photo-sensors and auxiliary electronics organized in 2010 in the frame of the ERA-NET ASPERA-2, representatives from academia and industry pointed out that developments could be made faster when one or a small number of labs could take the lead of these activities and work in close collaboration with industry. This advice is considered in SENSE. By formulating a roadmap incorporating all R&D activities necessary for the development of the ultimate low light-level sensors, the R&D efforts of European research groups, industry, and strategic partners worldwide will be efficiently aligned. This coordination shall reduce the redundancy of the efforts. The competition between groups shall be stimulated in those cases where developments can be made faster.
The project aims at joining forces of European experts in developing the ultimate low light-level sensors and taking the leadership in these R&D activities. Following new and emerging technologies in detecting minimal quantities of light (single photons) is a challenge. However, the close cooperation between industry and academia in several research disciplines is defining an ideal partnership for developing substantially improved low light-level sensors that find immediate application in research projects and in commercial products.
European companies shall be supported in getting to know the latest developments during the technology fora and meetings with developers, experts, and young talented researchers with interested in technology development. This will help European companies to be competitive with first-class low light-level devices as well as with applications making use of the best low light-level sensors.
Given that many applications are in medical diagnostic instrumentation, the substantial improvement in low light-level sensor technology will have a clear positive societal impact when radiation doses for patients can be significantly reduced. The innovation potential is enormous when it comes to a replacement of PMTs by the new SiPM technology. PET scanners could then be integrated in MRIs and allow studying structure and functional activity in vivo, which is important for cancer research, Alzheimer studies as well as drug tests. With current state-of-the-art technology such a combined diagnostic cannot be realized. Miniaturization and cheaper mass production of low light-level sensors will definitely lead to a wealth of innovative products on the long-term.
SENSE aims at attracting and supporting young researchers to get involved in forefront technology developments. This shall be realized by well-defined technology sessions at diverse summer schools. Videos, podcasts, tutorials, FAQs and other training material shall be disseminated via the internet exchange platform developed during the project. The platform shall also allow young researchers getting in touch with developers in academia and industry. The question on how to further involve young researchers in technology development – with special emphasis on young female researchers – shall be addressed in SENSE. Altogether the support of young researchers is seen as one of the key ingredients ensuring the long-term innovation potential in Europe.
Enhancing gender equality plays a major role to meet the objectives of SENSE. From the start on, special attention will be drawn to diversity e.g. mixed teams for the experts’ group, project board and the involved R&D research groups. As one of the main targets is to attract and train young researchers, the project shall benefit from promoting gender equality by a wider pool of talents and an increase in the quality, objectivity and vitality to produce new ideas and knowledge. To ensure the promotion of gender equality, SENSE will liaise with the EU funded GENERA project, which is focussing on gender in physics. GENERA will function as a consultancy in gender related questions.
Altogether, SENSE will be well embedded and linked to all other relevant initiatives and the affiliation to APPEC shall ensure that all stakeholders from academia and industry participate in the project.
The dissemination of the project results and the potential of advanced low light-level sensors for applications in other scientific communities – especially outside physics – and industries is substantial. The lead partner DESY is a world class research infrastructure in photon science. Synchrotrons and FELs at DESY are being used by an increasing number of scientific communities, e.g., from physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and pharmacy. In this interdisciplinary working together at DESY, the task of low light-level detection is ubiquitous. Technology developers in these areas shall be reached in-house. The intense relation between the working group of Prof. T. Montaruli at the University of Geneva and CERN, Prof. R. Mirzoyan at MPG and Dr. A. Haungs at KIT will further support disseminating the project results with the clear goal of stimulating new and innovative applications.
The web-based technology platform constitutes the main tool for dissemination and exploitation of results to a broader public. It serves as a publicly accessible website that details the goals, status, and results of the project and shall allow accessing internal information and documents in a password-protected section. The task for the project is to first develop the platform, then fill and update the information and act as a moderator for the forum part of the platform.