More Quantum Information with New Photon Detector

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have fabricated a new photon detector made of superconducting nanowires that’s the most precise of its kind.

The new device improves upon its predecessor by 74 picoseconds, and every little bit helps when trying to detect individual photons. In this case reducing picoseconds means less “jitter”, or uncertainty in the arrival time of a photon, allowing for more information to be transmitted.


A micrograph of a NIST single photon detector patterned on molybdenum silicide. Image credit: Verma/ NIST

Researchers used an electron beam to fabricate nanowires into a thin film made of a heat-tolerant ceramic superconductor, molybdenum silicide. The innovation in material results in a device that can operate at higher temperatures (though still cryogenic) and at a higher electrical current. The advances are featured in Optics Express.

The new molybdenum silicide photon detector cuts jitter in half, from about 150 picoseconds to 76 picoseconds. This enables communications at a higher bit rate, with more information transmitted per second. NISTs single-photon detectors are used in a variety of experiments around the world.

The detectors were made at NIST’s Boulder, Colorado microfabrication facility. Researchers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Geneva also contributed to the work.


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