Single-photon avalanche diode imagers in biophotonics: review and outlook

Claudio Bruschini*, Harald Homulle, Ivan Michel Antolovic, Samuel Burri, Edoardo Charbon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    271 Citations (Scopus)
    157 Downloads (Pure)


    Single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) arrays are solid-state detectors that offer imaging capabilities at the level of individual photons, with unparalleled photon counting and time-resolved performance. This fascinating technology has progressed at a very fast pace in the past 15 years, since its inception in standard CMOS technology in 2003. A host of architectures have been investigated, ranging from simpler implementations, based solely on off-chip data processing, to progressively “smarter” sensors including on-chip, or even pixel level, time-stamping and processing capabilities. As the technology has matured, a range of biophotonics applications have been explored, including (endoscopic) FLIM, (multibeam multiphoton) FLIM-FRET, SPIM-FCS, super-resolution microscopy, time-resolved Raman spectroscopy, NIROT and PET. We will review some representative sensors and their corresponding applications, including the most relevant challenges faced by chip designers and end-users. Finally, we will provide an outlook on the future of this fascinating technology.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number87
    Pages (from-to)1-29
    Number of pages29
    JournalLight: Science and Applications
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Author Correction, DOI The authors would like, for the sake of transparency, to expand the original Conflict of interest statement (page 25) as follows:

    The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest related to this article. For the sake of transparency, the authors would like to disclose that (i) Edoardo Charbon holds the position of Chief Scientific Officer of Fastree3D, a company making LiDARs for the automotive market, and that (ii) Ivan Michel Antolovic, Claudio Bruschini and Edoardo Charbon are co-founders of Pi Imaging Technology. Both companies have not been involved with the paper drafting, and at the time of writing have no commercial interests related to this article.


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