Ultra-fast superconducting single photon detectors

Superconducting single photon detector (SSPD) technology has emerged as a building block for numerous applications, including quantum communication, optical quantum computing or space to ground communication . Such devices are made of a long superconducting nanowire (typically 100nm wide and several µm long) biased just below its critical current. When an incident photon is absorbed by the nanowire, it generates a hot spot, which locally destroys the superconductivity and creates a resistive region. This phenomenon induces a measurable pulse voltage that is used to detect the arrival of a single photon, before the nanowire returns to its initial state.

Based on that principle, single photon detection started a decade ago using mainly Nb and NbN nanowires that operate in liquid He (4K). However, the speed of these devices is limited by the reset time which is intrinsically set by the electron-phonon scattering time of the superconductor. In addition, the constraint of the low temperature slows down the development of most of the practical applications. In this context the use of High-Tc Superconducting nanowires presents two main advantages: the critical temperature of the superconducting state is higher and the electron-phonon scattering time is much shorter than the actual SSPD ones, therefore enabling a faster operation.

Our team at ESPCI-ParisTech has developed a powerful technique to structures High-Temperature Superconducting films at the nanoscale combining advanced electron-beam lithography with ion irradiation technique. We have been able to produce reliable sub-micron wide nanowires, which are the main ingredient to build SSPD. This project aims to develop a new kind of ultra-fast superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors using YBa2Cu3O7 material.

Main references :

  • Ion irradiated YBa2Cu3O7 nano-meanders for superconducting single photon detectors P. Amari, C. Feuillet-Palma, A. Jouan, F. Couedo, N. Bourlet, E. Géron, M. Malnou, A. Sharafiev, J. Lesueur and N. Bergeal
    Supercond. Sci. Technol. 31, 015019 (2018).
  • Ion-irradiated YBa2Cu3O7 Josephson arrays for high-frequency mixing A. Sharafiev, M. Malnou, C. Feuillet-Palma, C. Ulysse, P. Febvre, J. Lesueur and N. Bergeal.
    Supercond. Sci. Technol. 31, 035003 (2018).