Here we propose developing a spectrometer where the light is separated and channelized by an photonic integrated circuit (PIC) and is then detected by an energy-resolving superconducting detector. The instrument would be a radical new type of high resolution spectrograph applicable for both multi-object and integral field unit (IFU) spectroscopy and other fiber-fed light applications. Our goal is to create a high resolution multi-object spectrograph (HRMOS) by marrying two breakthrough technologies, ultra-low loss arrayed waveguide gratings (AWG) and Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors, or MKIDs. MKIDs can determine the energy of each arriving photon without read noise or dark current, and with high temporal resolution. The AWG allows us to disperse light from the telescope, in a compact way and to position the dispersed light into numerous output channels which we can advantageously position (i.e. dispersed not just by the angle at which it diffracts off a prism or grating). The MKID allows us to distinguish between the orders in the disperse light contained within the channels, eliminated the need for a cross-disperser. In other words, the energy resolution of the MKID allows us to determine which echelle order the photon came from.
The most promising application for the High Resolution Photonic MKIDS Spectrograph is for High Dispersion Coronagraphy (HDC) for the detection and characterization of exoplanets. Having many fibers in a high resolution spectrograph instead of one allows HDC to go from being a follow-up technique only to an incredibly powerful tool for both detection and characterization. Another science application is looking at resolved stellar populations with adaptive optics across the local group, but increasing the observational efficiency by 100×.
The development of broadband high-resolution visible wavelengths spectrometers find increasing applications in the life sciences and medical field, including spectral tissue sensing and optical coherence tomography. By developing a high-performance and low CSWAP spectrometer we expect a broad adoption of the integrated photonic thechnology in such fields.