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Quantum communication: Each photon counts
Date:1/25/2013

tube that conducts light, around which a wire in a superconducting state is wound and, as such, has no electric resistivity. The nanometer-sized wire made of niobium nitride absorbs photons that propagate along the waveguide. When a photon is absorbed, superconductivity is lost, which is detected as an electric signal. The longer the tube, the higher is the detection probability. The lengths involved are in the micrometer range.

A special feature of the detector is its direct installation on the chip, which allows for it to be replicated at random. The single-photon detectors built thus far were stand-alone units, which were connected to chips with optical fibers. Arrangements of that type suffer from photons being lost in the fiber connection or being absorbed in other ways. These loss channels do not exist in the detector that is now fully embedded in a silicon photonic circuit. In addition to high detection efficiency, this gives rise to a remarkably low dark count rate. Dark counts arise when a photon is detected erroneously: for instance, because of a spontaneous emission, an alpha particle, or a spurious field. The new design also provides ultrashort timing jitter of 18 picoseconds, which is 18 times 10-12 seconds. The novel solution also makes it possible to integrate several hundreds of these detectors on a single chip. This is a basic precondition for future use in optical quantum computers.

The detector demonstrated in this study was designed to work at wavelengths in the Telekom bandwidth. The same detector architecture can also be used for wavelengths in the range of visible light. This would allow the principle to be employed in analyses of all structures that emit little light, i.e., photons, such as single molecules or bacteria.


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Contact: Monika Landgraf
presse@kit.edu
49-721-608-47414
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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