Up-Goer Five – Single Photon Avalanche Diodes!

I am going to explain what I did at the place where they help some strange people to do hard things they can’t do on their own because it needs lots of money. Often this means making very small things go very fast or sending lots and lots of light at something all at once.

We like looking at things and taking pictures. Sometimes we want to look at things that happen really fast, like when light comes out of stuff for a very very short time, or when there isn’t enough light to see stuff easily. You can also time when light gets to you to look inside someone to find what’s wrong with them. That way you can also use to find out about what happens when you put tiny things together or hit them together.

The thing I worked on was very very very tiny – about as wide as a hair. The idea is you can put lots of them together and they make a thing like an eye but black and white and which is really good at seeing very little bits of light. Light comes in single bits which you can’t cut up, and most eyes can only see seven or more at once when they’re really really good. It’s really hard to see just one at a time! But the things I worked on can see just one at a time because they are so tiny.

When a tiny bit of light hits the thing, it knocks out another tiny thing which is the same kind of thing that makes lights work. The thing that gets knocked out goes faster and faster and faster also for the same reason that lights work. It goes so fast that it knocks more of the things out! You can tell when a bit of light hits the thing because you get lots and lots and lots of makes-light-work things coming out, which is easy to tell when it happens.

The problem is that the eye-things I worked on doesn’t see all of the bits of light because sometimes it misses them. What you need to know to make the things I worked on better is how often they miss bits of light. That can be hard for lots of reasons, but some of the reasons can be got around because some people found out how. One problem is that the eye-things can’t always see the light-bits because they are too slow at looking, which is a different reason than the problem was to begin with. This is not a normal problem with other kinds of eye-thing so no-one knows how to get round it easily.

I found a way of making that second problem go away. It was easy to come up with but hard to find out if it was right, because you can’t tell exactly how much light there is without using the eye-things. We made a computer think very hard about it for a long time and it found that I was right. Then we tried a different way of telling whether I was right using the real eye-things and we found that I was right again. That was nice, and now we want to tell lots of other people about it so that they can all make better eye-things.

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About stoove

A physicist, researcher, and gamesman. Likes to think about the mathematics and mechanics behind all sorts of different things, and writing up the thoughts for you to read. A competent programmer, enjoys public speaking and mechanical keyboards. Has opinions which might even change from time to time.
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