Tuesday, 20 March 2007
An additional, stochastic source of electrons in a CCD well is thermal energy. Electrons can be freed from the CCD material itself through thermal vibration and then, trapped in the CCD well, be indistinguishable from "true" photoelectrons. By cooling the CCD chip it is possible to reduce significantly the number of "thermal electrons" that give rise to thermal noise or dark current. As the integration time T increases, the number of thermal electrons increases. The probability distribution of thermal electrons is also a Poisson process where the rate parameter is an increasing function of temperature. There are alternative techniques (to cooling) for suppressing dark current and these usually involve estimating the average dark current for the given integration time and then subtracting this value from the CCD pixel values before the A/D converter. While this does reduce the dark current average, it does not reduce the dark current standard deviation and it also reduces the possible dynamic range of the signal.