Advanced photon counting techniques for long-range depth imaging
The Time-Correlated Single-Photon Counting (TCSPC) technique has emerged as a candidate approach for Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and active depth imaging applications. The work of this Thesis concentrates on the development and investigation of functional TCSPC-based long-range scanning time-of-flight (TOF) depth imaging systems. Although these systems have several different configurations and functions, all can facilitate depth profiling of remote targets at low light levels and with good surface-to-surface depth resolution. Firstly, a Superconducting Nanowire Single-Photon Detector (SNSPD) and an InGaAs/InP Single-Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) module were employed for developing kilometre-range TOF depth imaging systems at wavelengths of ~1550 nm. Secondly, a TOF depth imaging system at a wavelength of 817 nm that incorporated a Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) 32×32 Si-SPAD detector array was developed. This system was used with structured illumination to examine the potential for covert, eye-safe and high-speed depth imaging. In order to improve the light coupling efficiency onto the detectors, the arrayed CMOS Si-SPAD detector chips were integrated with microlens arrays using flip-chip bonding technology. This approach led to the improvement in the fill factor by up to a factor of 15. Thirdly, a multispectral TCSPC-based full-waveform LiDAR system was developed using a tunable broadband pulsed supercontinuum laser source which can provide simultaneous multispectral illumination, at wavelengths of 531, 570, 670 and ~780 nm. The investigated multispectral reflectance data on a tree was used to provide the determination of physiological parameters as a function of the tree depth profile relating to biomass and foliage photosynthetic efficiency. Fourthly, depth images were estimated using spatial correlation techniques in order to reduce the aggregate number of photon required for depth reconstruction with low error. A depth imaging system was characterised and re-configured to reduce the effects of scintillation due to atmospheric turbulence. In addition, depth images were analysed in terms of spatial and depth resolution.