Signal pulses from a PIN photodiode can usually best be read out using a charge sensitive preamplifier (CSP). This is due to the low noise characteristics of CSPs, as well as the integrating nature of the output signal which provides an output proportional to the total charge flowing from the PIN photodiode during the pulse event.

Just a couple examples of pulse-detection applications using PIN photodiodes are the detection of radiation events from scintillators, or the detection of laser pulses.

Connecting a PIN photodiode to the CSP:

The usual connection scheme of a PIN photodiode to the CSP is shown below, and is known as an 'AC coupled' circuit:


Cremat's CSP instruments (such as the CR-Z-110 instruments or the CR-150-R5 evaluation board) use AC coupling to connect the PIN photodiode to the CSP module input.

The charge sensitive preamplifier (CSP) shown in the figure above is shown as an 8 pin module. Cremat offers four different CSP modules (CR-110, CR-111, CR-112, and CR-113) which differ primarily by their gain.  PIN photodiodes will likely be best served by the CR-110, which has the lowest noise and greatest gain of the available models.

A PIN photodiode based detection setup

An overview of the instrumentation for a PIN photodiode detection setup is shown below. To preserve low noise operation, we highly recommend keeping the cable between the photodiode and CR-Z-110 CSP as short as possible.


Given this overview, there are a number of choices and refinements still to be made. These are described below.

Choice of bias and filter resistors in the CR-Z-110

Cremat's CR-Z series of charge sensitive preamplifier instruments use 'AC-coupling' to connect the PIN photodiode to the input of the CSP's amplification stage, as was discussed previously. The detector dark current flows into the preamplifier instrument through the 'bias in' connector, is filtered in a simple RC low pass filter (10M/0.01μF), flows through the bias resistor (200M ohms), and finally flows through the PIN photodiode to ground. The bias resistor serves as a high impedance to the detector signals, so the PIN photodiode signal current passes instead through the relatively low impedance of the 0.01uF blocking capacitor to the preamplifier input.

In the event that the PIN photodiode dark current exceeds approximately 10nA, you should consider reducing the value of the bias resistor in order to prevent the resulting voltage drop across the resistor from becoming too large. The voltage drop across the bias resistor (as well as the filter resistor) reduces the PIN photodiode bias voltage by that same amount because they are in series. So if precise control of the detector bias is required and the detector current exceeds approximately 10nA (2 volt drop across the 200 Mohm bias resistor), you should consider reducing the value of the bias and filter resistors to keep these voltage drops small. It is for this reason that there are a couple unpopulated resistor positions on the main circuit board of the CR-Z instrument, labeled R-A and R-B, which can be used to shunt the filter and bias resistors respectively.

A table of recommended values of R-A and R-B is shown below, based on the average detector current. Because most voltmeters cannot accurately measure voltage drops across very large resistances, the best method is to use your knowledge of the approximate detector current to calculate this voltage drop. Refer to the PIN photodiode specifications to determine the dark leakage current if no other information is available.

leakage current range R-A R-B
0 to 10nA (Left open) (Left open)
10nA to 30nA (Left open) 22M
30nA to 100nA (Left open) 10M
100nA to 300nA 3.3M 3.3M
300nA to 1μA 1M 1M
1μA to 3μA 330k 330k
3μA to 10μA 100k 100k
10μA to 30μA 33k 33k


Choice of shaping time in the CR-S-X shaping amplifier

In the diagram above, the CR-S-1us shaping amplifier is used. This shaping amplifier uses a 1 microsecond shaping time, and is a 'middle of the road' choice for many applications. There are, however, some guidelines to help you determine the best shaping time for your application:

1) Chose the shaping time that will give you a minimum of electronic noise. As was mentioned above, shaping amplifiers are electronic (band pass) filters - the shaping time is related to the band pass frequency. There are a few sources electronic noise in a typical detection system, and some of them differ in their power spectra. While it is outside the scope of this guide to quantify the total electronic noise or provide complicated formulae for calculating the noise minimum, there generally is a noise minimum within the range of available shaping times. Changing the shaping time of the CR-S-X instrument is a simple matter of swapping out the installed CR-200-X shaping amplifier module for that of another shaping time, so determining the noise minimum could be done experimentally.

2) Choose a shaping time that is long enough to collect all the charge from the PIN photodiode. While PIN photodiodes can be fast detectors, the photon signal may have a duration lasting microseconds. For example, detection of a light signal from a CsI(Tl) scintillator occurs over a 2 microsecond duration. In this case and in other applications involving relatively slow signals, use a shaping time that is at least as long as the photon signal duration.

3) Choose a shaping time that is short enough to accommodate the expected counting rate of the detection system.