University of California, Santa Barbara
Our understanding of exoplanets has advanced dramatically in the past two decades with the introduction of new planetary detection techniques. Most recently, the direct imaging approach has made possible the spectral characterization of planets orbiting nearby stars. This capability opens the door for detecting traces of life in their atmospheres and has been targeted as a major goal in NASA’s 30-year strategic vision. Already many space-based telescopes have been proposed to accomplish this task. However, to characterize the atmosphere around a potential exo-earth, current detector performance must be improved. Microwave kinetic inductance detectors are one of the most promising new detectors that could meet this performance challenge in the ultraviolet to infrared spectrum. They have an advantage over other low temperature detector technologies as they are innately easy to multiplex and can be fabricated into large arrays. I propose to improve the MKID energy resolution and quantum efficiency so that these detectors will meet the specifications required for a space-based exoplanet spectroscopy mission.