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New Single-Photon Detector Created with Significantly Improved Performance

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 09:18AM

Detecting single photons may not seem like something most people will have to worry about, but as we come closer to developing quantum communication networks, it is becoming more important. To that end, researchers at NIST have developed a new single-photon detector that cuts in half the jitter of a previous design. Reducing jitter allows for a higher bit rate.

The new detector uses nanowires of the superconductor molybdenum silicide. Even though a single photon does not carry much energy, it will still transition the nanowire back to being a regular conductor, which can be detected. What makes this new detector better is that molybdenum silicide is a superconductor at a higher temperature than that in NISTs previous design. This simplifies the necessary refrigeration and allows a higher electrical current to be run through it. This higher current cuts the uncertainty of when a photon is detected, or the jitter, from 150 picoseconds down to 76 ps. It also has a high detector efficiency of 87% at telecommunication wavelengths.

Beyond its uses for quantum communications, this new detector will likely also see use in tests of different physics theories that require examining the properties of billions of photons and entangled photons.

Source: NIST

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