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Rev Sci Instrum. 2016 Sep;87(9):095003.

A microfabricated sun sensor using GaN-on-sapphire ultraviolet photodetector arrays.

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Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


A miniature sensor for detecting the orientation of incident ultraviolet light was microfabricated using gallium nitride (GaN)-on-sapphire substrates and semi-transparent interdigitated gold electrodes for sun sensing applications. The individual metal-semiconductor-metal photodetector elements were shown to have a stable and repeatable response with a high sensitivity (photocurrent-to-dark current ratio (PDCR) = 2.4 at -1 V bias) and a high responsivity (3200 A/W at -1 V bias) under ultraviolet (365 nm) illumination. The 3 × 3 GaN-on-sapphire ultraviolet photodetector array was integrated with a gold aperture to realize a miniature sun sensor (1.35 mm × 1.35 mm) capable of determining incident light angles with a ±45° field of view. Using a simple comparative figure of merit algorithm, measurement of incident light angles of 0° and 45° was quantitatively and qualitatively (visually) demonstrated by the sun sensor, supporting the use of GaN-based sun sensors for orientation, navigation, and tracking of the sun within the harsh environment of space.


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