SI Cameras
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Technical Notes & Applications

Cameras built by Spectral Instruments are designed to achieve the highest standards and level of quality in the scientific imaging market. Cooled CCD cameras are ideally suited for applications requiring the lowest noise level for detection of the faintest of light signals. For specialized solutions to applications not listed here, please call 520-884-8821or email us for more info.

See also: Full Product Line | Custom Cameras | Products in Development
Spectral Instruments develops and manufactures cooled CCD cameras that are used broadly in drug discovery. Read more.

Plasma Physics

The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore NationalLaboratory uses the 1000S and 800S cameras extensively to image the results of implosion shots of capsules filled with materials. The end goal is to ignite a fusion reaction from hydrogen. Our cameras are custom designed for their applications to not only image the results of the implosions, but also to study the integrity of the optics used to focus the 192 laser beams onto the small target. The robust design of these cameras allows Livermore to reliably collect the precious data needed in the rugged environment created by the requirements of the facility which include high large EMP pulses.
Plasma Physics
Images Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


Andromeda galaxyThe 600 (discontinued - see 1100 Series cameras) and 1100 Seriescameras are well suited for the long exposures and faint light signals that astronomers typically encounter. Extremely low dark current levels must be provided for exposures that can last for many minutes to hours at a time. Spectral Instruments cryo-cooled CCD cameras can image for up to thirty minutes before a single electron of dark current is generated per pixel. Cameras made for imaging astronomical objects are individually optimized to ensure the maximum dynamic range of a CCD and the lowest noise possible are realized. Shown to the right is a picture of the Andromeda galaxy and an image of the Trifid Nebula from one of our cameras featured on the June 30th Astronomy Picture of the Day

The Catalina Sky Survey uses Spectral Instruments cameras and has been responsible for the identification of most of the new objects found in our solar system since its inception. The survey allows other astronomers to analyze their data and make additional discoveries as well including the recent identification of a galaxy likely to contain a binary black hole system which may merge in the ‘near’ future.

The Super-LOTIS telescope has used a Spectral Instruments 800 series since 2005 to observe transients in other galaxies. Super-LOTIS is a fully-robotic 60cm telescope located on Kitt Peak and run by the University of Arizona. The camera is thermo-electrically cooled, paired with a chiller to run 250+ nights a year without direct monitoring. Originally dedicated to gamma-ray burst (GRB) foillow-ups, super-LOTIS now follows all types of transients, including thermonuclear and core collapse supernovae, novae and flaring massive stars. A listing of recent publications from that work can be found on the super-LOTIS website. As a fully robotic telescope, the Spectral Instruments camera has been subjected to a wide range of harsh conditions, including dust/smoke, snow flurries, water dripping on from the interior of the roof, light rain and even a lightning strike. Despite all these factors, the camera continues to operate nominally, requiring a small number of repairs. Other universities with similar robotic systems have complemented the image quality of the super-LOTIS system and we have been quite happy with the reliable performance of our Spectral Instruments camera with a specialized LINUX driver.

Monitoring Circadian Rhythms

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David Welsh and Steve Kay at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are using the Spectral Instruments 800 Series camera for their research on biological rhythms. Most living organisms generate circadian (ca. 24 hr) oscillations that persist even under constant conditions, allowing them to anticipate dawn and dusk, and to organize their physiology according to a daily program. Welsh and Kay have devised an optical method to monitor circadian rhythms of gene expression in individual cells. They use a firefly luciferase reporter gene driven by regulatory elements from a clock gene (per2), so that the cells glow with a circadian rhythm. Like dim stars in a night-time sky, however, the cells emit only a few photons per minute. Microscopic time lapse imaging of the glowing cells therefore requires a highly sensitive, low noise detector. Of five leading cameras tested for this demanding application, only the Spectral Instruments 800 Series camera has the required high QE, low read noise, and low dark current, and produced images free of artifacts. Mouse neurons seen in this movie show circadian rhythms of bioluminescence from a week-long experiment compressed into a few seconds.This study demonstrated that a specific gene (Cry2) is not required for rhythmicity. David Welsh, University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

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X-ray Micro Computerized Tomography

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The 1100 Series camera lends itself very well to x-ray micro computerized tomography (CT). Micro CT differentiates itself from the medical version of X-ray CT by its ability to see detail at much smaller scales. Extremely long exposure times are necessary to get a large enough contrast ratio out of the x-ray attenuation from the density or compositional ch anges of the object in space. Objects are imaged at various angles with x-ray radiation to get a three-dimensional picture of the interior structure of the object. Dr. Graham Davis is using our cameras to develop a new Micro CT system capable of reading ancient scrolls without opening them (shown at left). The camera can see the iron used in the dyes of the inks used to write on this ancient text. After applying some software algorithms to the scroll, it will be able to be laid flat so the writing can be seen without ever having to open and potentially damage the valuable object

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X-ray Crystallography

CCD camera for X-ray crystallographyCCD camera for X-ray crystallographyOur largest camera, the 900 Series, is used for x-ray crystallographic applications. Intense x-ray sources such as the synchrotron at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility are used to determine crystal structures of all types of materials. An x-ray diffraction image used for crystal structure determination can be seen to the left. Scientists can calculate the exact shape of molecules in a crystal from the positions and intensities of the spots in such images.

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