Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NIST Detector Counts Photons With 99 Percent Efficiency

16.04.2010
Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed* the world’s most efficient single photon detector, which is able to count individual particles of light traveling through fiber optic cables with roughly 99 percent efficiency. The team’s efforts could bring improvements to secure electronic communication, advanced quantum computation and the measurement of optical power.

Using essentially the same technology that permitted them to achieve 88 percent detection efficiency five years ago,** the team has enhanced its ability to detect photons largely by improving the alignment of the detector and the optical fibers that guide photons into it.

The basic principle of the detector is to use a superconductor as an ultra-sensitive thermometer. Each individual photon hitting the detector raises the temperature—and increases electrical resistance—by a minute amount, which the instrument registers as the presence of a photon.

According to team member Sae Woo Nam, the advantage of this type of single photon detector is that the new detector design not only measures lower levels of light than have ever been possible, but does so with great accuracy.

“When these detectors indicate they’ve spotted a photon, they’re trustworthy. They don’t give false positives,” says Nam, a physicist with NIST’s Optoelectronics division. “Other types of detectors have really high gain so they can measure a single photon, but their noise levels are such that occasionally a noise glitch is mistakenly identified as a photon. This causes an error in the measurement. Reducing these errors is really important for those who are doing calculations or communications.”

The ability to count individual photons is valuable to designers of certain types of quantum computers as well as scientists engaged in quantum optical experiments, which concern exotic states of light that cannot be described by classical physics. But one of the most promising potential applications of a high-efficiency photon detector is a way to secure long-distance data transmission against unwanted interception. A detector that could recognize that a photon forming part of a transmission was missing would be a substantial defense against information theft.

The team has optimized the detection for 810 nanometers—an infrared wavelength—and it still has high efficiency at other wavelengths that are interesting for fiber optic communications, as well as the quantum optics community. Ironically, the detector is so efficient that it outstrips current technology’s ability to determine its precise efficiency.

“We can’t be sure from direct measurement that we’ve achieved 99 percent efficiency because the metrology is not in place to determine how close we are—there’s no well-established technique,” Nam says. “What is great about our latest progress is that we measure nearly the same detection efficiency for every device we build, package and test. It’s the reproducibility that gives us confidence.”

The team is currently working to develop evaluation techniques that can measure up to the detector’s abilities, and Nam says the team’s creation could also help evaluate other light-gathering devices.

“NIST offers a standardized service for measuring the efficiency of photodetectors and optical power meters,” he says. “We’re trying to develop a calibration technique that extends to ultra-low levels of light. It should be valuable for anyone looking at single photons.”

* A.E. Lita, B. Calkins, L.A. Pellouchoud, A.J. Miller and S. Nam. Superconducting transition-edge sensors optimized for high-efficiency photon-number resolving detectors. Presented at the SPIE Symposium on SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing, Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center, Crystal J1 Ballroom, 3 p.m. April 7, 2010.

** See “NIST Photon Detectors Have Record Efficiency” in NIST Tech Beat, June 2, 2005, at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2005_0602.htm#photon.

Chad Boutin | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.nist.gov

Further reports about: NIST Photon SPIE energy efficiency quantum computer single photon

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium
22.09.2017 | University of Kansas

nachricht Calculating quietness
22.09.2017 | Forschungszentrum MATHEON ECMath

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>