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Astronomy Instrumentation

Telescope with the moon and Venus

We have a reputation for developing world-leading enabling technology and translating them into state-of-the-art instruments designed to fulfil current scientific needs.

We are heavily involved in the development of virtually all far infrared space instruments. Our previous work has included instruments on board satellites such as Herschel and Planck. We were the principal investigating team for the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE), which was one of only three instruments on board the Herschel Space Observatory that was launched in 2009 and operated until 2013.

Research areas

We are currently active in the following areas:


Sensing at Terahertz (THz) frequencies is a rapidly developing field, with applications as diverse as astronomy, atmospheric science, fusion diagnostics, material characterisation, security scanning and even art conservation. The demanding combination of high sensitivity and fast speed of response for THz detectors inevitably requires a technology that is cooled to cryogenic temperatures.

The primary contact for this area is Professor Peter Ade.


We develop superconducting detector technology. Exciting advances have been made in Kinetic Inductance Detectors (KIDS) and Transition Edge Superconductors (TES). These advances are making possible large format, ultra-sensitive arrays and compact on-chip spectrometers at mm to Far infra-red (FIR) (THz) wavelengths.

The primary contacts for this area are Professor Peter Ade and Dr Simon Doyle.

Quasi optics and metamaterials

This is a long standing and highly successful activity within the group. New developments in this area are particularly crucial for wide-field instruments and the large superconducting arrays developed in Detector technology.

The primary contacts for this area are Professor Peter Ade and Dr Giampaolo Pisano.

Earth Observing (EO) and climate studies

The same technology developed for distant astronomical observations can be faced towards the Earth and used to look at the atmosphere. We have been involved with several Earth Observing (EO) platforms over a great many years and are currently looking towards future EO satellite instrument concepts.

The primary contact for this area is Professor Peter Hargrave.

Far Infra-Red (FIR) interferometry

We have a programme to prove the technology for future, very high angular resolution FIR observations for galactic and extra galactic science using interferometry.

The primary contact for this area is Professor Matt Griffin.

Other areas of research

We are also conducting research into readout electronics, device qualification and multi-object spectroscopy.