Through technological advances in the field of space research, especially on a commercial level, it has become more economical to send research probes into orbit. As a result, many universities/institutes find the opportunity to develop and launch small and relatively cheap instruments (such as cubesats). Alternatively, many instruments have also become more larger and more complex (such as AMS-02). This in turn has boosted our knowledge in astrophysics. Undeniably, there are many more open questions towards our understanding of the universe. Research in the field of dark matter and cosmic rays are of paramount importance for which HERD and PAN are being developed. It should be noted that Swiss institutes are actively involved in POLAR-2, eXTP, HERD and PAN which are the first large scale detectors using SiPMs. This highlights the leading contribution of Switzerland towards extending the frontiers of space sciences and technologies.
SiPMs are compact photo-sensitive devices which measure the faint light in their sensitive material and provide many advantages for space-borne applications. They are robust (thus do not require dead material for damping purposes), eliminate the need to develop a space qualified high voltage power supply, can provide a low energy detection threshold, are are insensitive to magnetic fields and are cheap. However, despite the advantages, SiPMs will be subjected to the harsh radiation environments experienced in orbit. Due to the radiation damage, the noise in SiPMs increases which yields a decreased detector performance, translating in a loss of scientific data.
As it is a critical component in many instruments, dedicated studies on SiPM radiation damage are performed with e.g. proton beams but also through active data taking of instruments in orbit. From our development on the POLAR-2 instrument, we understand the critical importance of exchanging knowledge on various analyses on SiPM radiation damage. Due to the plethora of SiPM types, instrument configurations and their respective orbital operations it is sometimes very difficult to easily characterize the origin of “SiPM radiation damage features”.
We aim to invite researchers involved with SiPM radiation damage (simulations, lab data and data while in space) and address these features. We also aim to create a reliable open platform to share (published and unpublished) results on SiPM radiation damage, in line with the Open Research Data philosophy. Usually, SiPM analyses are kept internal within the collaborations until they are finally published. However, published materials primarily address a digested version of the full analyses (i.e. “the tip of the iceberg”), omitting the full nature of development on a SiPM. Such a database will become invaluable for researchers (in Switzerland or abroad) who are in the early stages of the detector development. Applications are not only limited to space as SiPMs (exposed to radiation) can also be used for nuclear medicine and/or hazard detection. Finally, in addition, we aim to produce an overview paper on the behavior of SiPMs in space.