We live in the information age where we rely on the creation, detection, and distribution of short light pulses forming the Internet. The demand for high data throughput has pushed the speed of laser modulators and detectors close to the 1 ps time limit. However, to reach these speeds, current telecom detectors require at least a thousand photons per light pulse. We push these power requirements to the physical limit of a single photon while preserving a good time response. Superconducting nanowire detectors are already able to detect one single photon more than a thousand times more sensitive than the best telecom detectors available today – while maintaining a time resolution on the order of 20 ps. However, the best superconducting detectors cannot operate faster than ~100 MHz.
In Gisiphod, we will overcome this barrier by an order of magnitude and reach the GHz counting range while lowering the detection time jitter aiming at 1 ps. This will allow the use of superconducting detectors not just in fundamental research, but also bring this ultra-sensitive detector technology to far broader use in technology and medicine. Our new devices will allow to remote sense chemicals, allowing to monitor industrial processes with additional safety and efficiency. Optical diagnostic tools will improve as weak infrared pulses at the ps level can be directly measured. Optical communication will benefit as communication can be performed at the physical limit of the single photon level, enhancing energy efficiency which is especially desirable for communication with micro-satellites. The advent of quantum cryptography will gain from our fast reliable single photon detectors.
Moreover, in medicine our technology will generate breakthroughs in spectroscopic measurements, allowing to detect illnesses at an earlier stage – increasing therapy effectiveness. How will we achieve this breakthrough? The speed of detectors, as well as their time jitter, is limited by the length of the superconducting nanowire. In Gisiphod, we will shrink the nanowire geometry to boost speed and decrease timing jitter. A novel scheme to couple the light to these small detectors will be developed in a two pillar approach: Single Quantum will use special optical fibres with a very small core diameter, and Prof. Zwiller’s group at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm will pursue a novel path by fabricating the detectors directly on an optical fibre, solving many fabrication and alignment problems. On an organisational level, this project will bring together two world leaders in photonics. The company Single Quantum BV, est. 2012, with expertise in the design and fabrication of superconducting detectors. And from academia, Prof. Zwiller’s group with experience and infrastructure for advanced fabrication and processing of superconducting detectors.