No annual report


Proposal ID 2015-006
Submitted January 12, 2015
Department Aeronautics and Astronautics
Category Machinery & Research
Funding Status Not Funded
Metric Score 3.70


  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Dana Dabiri
  • High Sensitivity EMCCD Data Acquisition System for Ultra-Low Light Imaging
  • 3-6067
  • 352400
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Patrick Gibbs
  • Administrator
  • 6-1116
  • 352400
  • Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Mailbox
  • Michael B. Bragg
  • Professor
  • 3-1829
  • 352180



This proposal is being submitted to acquire the next technological generation of an Electron Multiplying (EMCCD) camera, which increases the gain factor (light intensification) from 1200 to 5000, and tremendously increases the electron well depth from 400,000 to 800,000, both of which allow for ultra-low light imaging. Applications of ultra-low light EMCCDs are very broad and apply to many environments where traditional cameras, or even intensified CCD (ICCD) cameras are insufficient. Therefore, students in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics and other departments across our other Colleges (Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Medicine) who are involved in a very diverse set of disciplines, such as but not limited to, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, physics, chemistry, and cell biology, can benefit from the use of the requested high sensitivity, high resolution EMCCD camera data acquisition system. The ability of performing ultra-low light imaging, which prior to now has not been possible, will help to accelerate the advancement of student research at the UW. Due to our experience with the use of digital scientific cameras for research use, we will be able to guide the use of this advanced technology to the student body who would request its use.

Category Justification

The high sensitivity, high resolution EMCCD data acquisition system, as a sophisticated system used in various types of research, is for scientific inquiry, fabrication, and development, hence the category selection of machinery and research.


Arguably, one of the most important, yet least understood problem in the field of classical mechanics is turbulence. Even though the governing equations have been known since 1845, despite a century of study, no theory of turbulence has ultimately emerged that can be applied universally to predict turbulent flow behavior. Sir Horace Lamb best summarized today’s researcher’s frustration in 1932, shortly before his death, by stating “I am an old man now, and when I die and go to Heaven there are two matters on which I hope enlightenment. One is quantum electro-dynamics and the other is turbulence of fluids. About the former, I am really rather optimistic.”
In order to push the frontiers of turbulent research, it is therefore imperative that we develop flow models based on physics, rather than hypotheses and ad hoc assumptions, which we are currently doing experimentally.
Unfortunately, no experimental method at present exists to properly make such measurements. Such a development would allow for the experimental study of turbulent flow, which are quite detailed flow phenomena, allowing for new models to be proposed based on experimentally-derived physics, rather than strictly hypotheses. To develop turbulence models based on physics, such experimental methods should allow for the simultaneous measurement of pressure/velocity, or temperature/velocity, or pressure/temperature/velocity, depending on the type of flow being studies. Therefore, it is highly beneficial to develop a state-of-the-art imaging-based measurement system that will provide such detailed simultaneous measurements. Furthermore, such fundamental understandings will provide exciting opportunities in new areas of research, for example, for better understanding bioflows, such as drag reduction, aeroacoustics, sound generation and its modeling within the larynx, , and air exchange within lungs as well as the transport and deposition of aerosols within the lungs. , , ,
Towards this end, research at the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics is presently being conducted towards developing such methods for not only simultaneously measuring pressure/velocity, temperature/velocity, and pressure/temperature/velocity within fluid bulk, and but also simultaneously measuring pressure/shear-stress forces at a surface as well. Our methods make use of pressure/temperature-sensitive dyes, which are dyes whose luminescence intensities varies with pressure/temperature, respectively. Since these luminescence are very dim, we need to use EMCCD cameras to be able to capture these ultra-low light levels with minimal noise.
At present, the department has two Hamamatsu EMCCD cameras. However, these cameras are not sufficiently sensitive to capture the ultra-low light emissions from our pressure/temperature-sensitive dyes. Our most recent product survey has shown that there is a new EMCCD available from NUVU cameras (, which clearly outperforms the present Hamamatsu EMCCDs; i.e., its gain factor maximum is 5000 and its electron well depth is 800,000 (whereas the older Hamamatsu EMCCD’s has much lower performance metrics of 1200 and 400,000, respectively). These markedly improved performance capabilities will significantly impact the research efforts of students in the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics by allowing for capture of ultra-low light levels with highly sensitive cameras, which is beyond our present older technology Hamamatsu cameras. Fortunately, the cost for this camera is within funding range, at $57,500 (with shipping).

Benefits to Students and the University

Student Education: UWAA and UWME departments are presently in the process of developing a much-needed graduate course in experimental fluid dynamics, which we will be using to service any need in experimental fluid mechanics across the College of Engineering. The curriculum of this course will entail discussions of types of data, statistics, stationary data analysis, digital data analysis, uncertainty analysis, and last but not least, quantitative flow visualizations. An ultra-low light EMCCD video camera would enable much more meaningful education of our students towards a strong education in the latest measurement methods.

Student Research: Examples of research programs that would benefit from the use of this camera are Professor Reinhall’s research in understanding flow-structure interactions in biological flows, Professor Mescher’s research in natural convection and polymer optical fiber manufacturing, Professors Riley’s and Ferrante’s research in turbulence, and Professors Kramlich and Hermanson’s research in combustion. Clearly, with the proposed ultra-low light level EMCCD camera, engineering college students will have access to a unique equipment that would allow for much higher fidelity experiments that would otherwise not be possible.

Departmental Endorsements

Access to the newest generation of Electron Multiplying CCD cameras would be a great benefit in flow mixing research because of their ability to visualize faint differences in flow structure luminosity. When combined with schlieren and shadowgraph illumination techniques, very fine details in boundary layers and weak shock wave interactions can be examined with unprecedented clarity. Seeing these phenomena are both inspirational and incredibly instructive to students carrying out research in this field. The ability to incorporate such high resolution results into both student and faculty technical publications will certainly facilitate maintaining the University of Washington's nationally recognized top-notch research status.
Carl Knowlen, Senior Research Scientist, William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics
Many fundamentally important phenomena in compressible and unsteady flows are highly vortical or turbulent, for example flow around bodies such as airplanes, cars, and trains, bird flight, turbulent mixing, and atmospheric and oceanic flows. In addition, many techniques used in the study of these flows, such as laser fluorescence, scattering, and luminescence involve signals with very low signal strength, making image intensification essential. Historically, limitations in capturing such ultra-low light images have presented a serious challenge to understanding these complicated phenomena. Although these techniques allow for an overall picture of the evolution of the flow phenomena, they do not difficult to capture because of the poor signal-to-noise levels from these ultra-low images. The acquisition of this latest technology EMCCD camera would alleviate any of these limitations that would be made available to the UW community, by enabling the effective visualization and analysis of ultra-low light phenomena, bringing significant new capability to the Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics as well as Mechanical Engineering and other engineering and science departments at the UW.
James C. Hermanson, Professor, Aeronautics & Astronautics
I teach both the undergraduate and graduate core courses in fluid mechanics for the Mechanical Engineering programs. These are commonly considered among the most challenging courses in both curriculums, typically showing 50% of the votes in exit questionnaires and interviews that the department conducts on recent graduates. It is also, however, one of the courses that show up as the most valuable in the 3-years-out and 10-years-out interviews with our alumni. This appreciation for the subject among young professionals is not so much related to their use of the tools developed in these classes, but because of the impact they have in their capability to attack a difficult problem in many different ways, theoretical, experimental and computationally. It is essential to keep up with the use of state-of-the-art technology in the laboratory if we are to maintain this excellence in educating the next generations of engineers. The students will only leave the university with the confidence that they can combine mathematics fundamentals and complex visualization to solve realistic problems in their careers, if they have seen this powerful synergy work in the lab.

To this end, the departments of Aero, Civil and Mechanical Engineering are working to combine forces and merge undergraduate laboratory experiences for their undergraduates, and to create a graduate experimental techniques course to train their experimental PhD students. The need to resolve complex processes that happen at the molecular mixing layer in turbulent flows, such as flames, calcium intake in cells, quantitative multiphase visualizations to explore both the flow velocity and composition, require extremely sensitive cameras, such as those equipped with EMCCD sensors. The availability of this camera to the fluid mechanics laboratories in the three collaborating departments mentioned above would enable us to offer our students a new and more powerful type of experiments in which the visualizations can not only provide insight into the physics, but also quantify the solution because the charge collected in the image sensor is univocally related to the variable that the students are measuring and visualizing. This instrument would be an invaluable thrust in the reorganization, improvement and coordination of the undergraduate (and graduate) fluid mechanics laboratories across three departments.
Alberto Aliseda, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
I believe the proposed ultra-low lighting EMCCD camera system would be a huge asset for promoting work in a variety of areas. As an example, we are working on the in-flame self-assembly of silicon-based nanostructures. A vaporized silicon-containing precursor is fed to an inverted diffusion flame. Nano filaments of silicon oxides appear to grow preferentially from the filament tips rather than adding to the thickness of existing filaments. The exact mechanism for this is unknown at present. We need high magnification in order to fully observe these growths, and because of this, there is not a lot of light left to do adequate imaging. Therefore, we can use this camera in a backlit macro mode to examine this process, which would otherwise be undoable. The key features will be (1) an ability to configure the camera in a high magnification, macro mode, and (2) a sufficiently high framing rate to allow visualization of the dynamics of the filament growth process (the stated frame rate of this camera at 16 f/s is sufficient). The goal is to understand the mechanism of growth such that we can tailor the flame conditions to provide optimal fibers.

The students working on this project are very dedicated and proactive in trying to understand how the flame conditions influence the amount of fiber growth and the characteristics of the fibers. The ability to visualize the actual growth process at high speed would be a huge asset in resolving these mechanistic issues and ultimately arriving at the understanding needed to move this process towards commercialization. For these reasons, I see this as a critical addition to the array of tools we can use on a variety of problems. I fully support this STF application.
John Kramlich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
There are many bioflows where understanding the both the fluid and pressure fields is very important. For example, understanding how the lungs work requires an understanding of the fluid mechanics, and pressure developments within the lung. The methodology that Prof. Dabiri is developing requires imaging pressure-sensitive microbeads, where its fluorescence is a measure of pressure, and its motion is a measure of the velocity. At present, the fluorescence of these beads is very dim. Acquisition of this latest technology EMCCD camera, unlike previous EMCCDs, will allow for the acquisition of images of the motions of these micro beads that would allow students to perform work that has not been previously possible. Ultra-low light imaging is an area that is of growing interest to students in pursuing a wide range of projects related to engineering in medicine. For example, EMCCDs can be used to study cells and their behaviors, to design drug delivery devices for the developing world, and to develop diagnostic devices that can aid in lowering the cost of health care. I strongly endorse the purchase of this EMCCD camera so that this type of state of the art imaging can be available to the UW students.
Per Reinhall, Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering.
Pushing the frontiers of science in environmental fluid mechanics requires fundamental understanding of fluid mechanics and heat transfer. Towards this end, having an EMCCD that can be used with Prof. Dabiri’s measurement methods of measuring temperature and velocity simultaneously would be a big advantage for us in our research of understanding how heat and energy is transported within environmental fluid phenomena. This instrumentation will be especially valuable in a new flume being built in our lab, where the EMCCD could be coupled with thermal infrared imagers to look at turbulent air-water gas transfer processes at the water surface. In addition, this methodology can be used effectively in teaching. I am at present working with faculty in the Mechanical and Aeronautics and Astronautics departments to develop an under/graduate laboratory course, where we will teach students how to experimentally measure relevant flow parameters that would allow them to better tackle problems in turbulent mixing and turbulent heat transfer. Having this ultra-low light highly sensitive camera would be an excellent asset to provide the state-of-the-art equipment to students in order to educate them on the latest use of technology towards pushing the frontiers of science. Because of all of these positive impacts, having this ultra-low light imaging EMCCD camera would be a big asset to students and faculty at the College of Engineering.
Alex Horner-Devine, Allan & Inger Osberg Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Installation Timeline

The NUVU HNu 1024 EMCCD camera will be ordered within one week of receiving the STF budget award and delivery from factory is estimated to be 20 weeks. It is functional upon delivery.

Resources Provided by Department

The Fluid Mechanics Laboratory is fully equipped with the required power, illumination, test rigs, optical components, and PCs to be able to operate the camera. In addition, the laboratory has the personnel required to maintain and operate the camera. Consultation for unique experiment needs of students interested in using the camera will be provided by appropriate AA Dept. faculty.

Access Restrictions (if any)

The EMCCD camera would be available for use by students during normal working hours (8 AM-5 PM), with permission from a faculty member. The camera itself would be secured at the fluid mechanics laboratory and can be checked out directly. Training and supervision will be provided to new student users so that appropriate safeguards for equipment usage will be ensured. Within the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, all equipment needed for ultra-low light imaging is available for use for any educational or research activity.

Student Endorsements

Acquiring the NUVU HNu 1024 EMCCD camera will be a great benefit to the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. It's extreme high sensitivity will not only contribute to the research on pressure and temperature sensitive particles, but also facilitate the education of undergraduate researchers such as myself, by exposing me to the latest technology equipment and allowing me the opportunity to learn how to use it and work with it in a research environment. In doing so, it will enable undergraduate students like myself to conduct more complicated experiments, and will allow us to then be more marketable to excellent graduate programs upon graduation. Because of this, I strongly endorse obtaining this NUVU EMCCD camera
Gai Ogihara, Aeronautics and Astronautics Undergraduate Student
The technological requirements of high level research are continuing to rise. With this rise comes an increasing need for cutting edge technology and equipment for use in both research and education. The acquisition of a new EMCCD in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department would aid in the measurement of fluid field properties such as temperature, pressure, and velocity through photo-luminescent measurement. The camera would greatly benefit the continuation of research into the simultaneous measurement of the fluid properties. This camera could allow for the simultaneous measurements of temperature, pressure, and velocity in a fluid flow at high spatial resolutions never before achieved. The addition of an EMCCD camera would allow whole new avenues of research for photo-luminescent measurement of flow properties.
Trey Cottingham, Aeronautics and Astronautics Graduate Student
I thoroughly endorse the funding of the HNu EMCCD camera for use in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. As a second year graduate student, I know firsthand that having the best technology available is critical to making significant contributions and breakthroughs in the field. In the realm of fluid diagnostics specifically, the ultimate goal is the ability to validate and match the capabilities of computational methods. With computational capability quite literally doubling every few years, taking advantage of this huge instrument upgrade is a must. Every investment that improves measurement resolution or sensitivity means a difference in the physics we can observe and the experiments we can conduct. The added ability to quantify slight fluctuations in temperature and pressure would benefit many students as well as their research efforts. Closing the gap between computational results and experimental results is within our grasp. A quantum leap such as this is the very difference between being a leader in the field and being left behind by other research universities.
Nicholas Dona, Aeronautics and Astronautics Graduate Student
I would like to submit an endorsement to acquire the NUVU HNu 1024 EMCCD camera for University of Washington. It is a high-sensitivity, low noise camera designed for unprecedented low light imaging. This camera’s use would span a whole range of fields of study for the campus.
Its high well depth capacity would be indispensable for visualizing fluorescence, a characteristic used in the aeronautical field for measuring velocity, pressure, and temperature. This allows student researchers the capability to better understand turbulent flows. They would be able to “see” air, as particles coated in fluorescent dye and suspended in the air are imaged. They could map the performance and characteristics of a moving vehicle in a fluid. They could better measure what’s happening on a smaller time scale, which students can then utilize to make better designs for moving vehicles. The light emitted from fast-responding fluorescence is very dim, but the information obtained is so important for research.
The astronomy department needs a high performance low light imaging camera for its learning purposes. Being able to collect as many photons as possible from distant stars is very important to learn more about space, the final frontier. The information collected from the camera may have all sorts of future implications in space development, and it will lead to better informed students who are able to contribute more to their space community.
The biology department could use this camera for FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching), an optical technique used for examining single cells and to study cell membrane diffusion and protein binding.
Imaging low-light would create a whole range of opportunities for students at University of Washington to explore and discover how the world works. Its incredible imaging capabilities can provide unique learning experiences, and experimental results from this camera can be utilized for the benefit of all.
Lillian Pryor, Aeronautics and Astronautics Graduate Student


Group Funded Item Unit price Quantity Subtotal

NUVU HNu 1024

$57,500.00 1 $57,500.00

• Lowest background noise and high EM gain for high SNR
• High CTE for best image quality
• Fine control of detector temperature for lowest dark current
• Up to 20 MHz readout rate
• wavelength/10 quality window with C-Mount adapter
• Easy calibration with a centered chip and built-in shutter
• Efficient Photon Counting mode to suppress ENF
• No noise-filtering algorithm that may remove genuine photon
• NüPixel software for control, acquisition and analysis, drivers for third-party software and software development kit (SDK) for maximum customizability.
• Camera Link or GigE interface


This EMCCD video camera has the highest gain factor and deepest electron well depth for all brands currently on the market . Since the item will be purchased as equipment, it is tax exempt. Shipping costs are also included in this price.

Total requested: $57,500.00

Total funded: $0.00


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