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Operation principle of SNSPD

The superconducting nanowire single photon detector (SNSPD) consists of a thin film of superconducting material shaped into a meandering nanowire through nanofabrication processes. This pattern enables it to cover a wide surface area, collecting the whole output of an optical fiber, while constituting a single path for the current. The detectors are operated at 2.5 Kelvin and a constant current below the critical current of the superconductor is applied to the device. The nanoscale cross section gives our photon detectors an extremely high level of sensitivity upon absorption of just a single photon.

Once a single photon is absorbed in the meandering nanowire, superconductivity is locally broken. As a result, the current is directed towards the amplification electronics and creates a voltage pulse. After the photon is absorbed, superconductivity recovers in the nanowire within a short time and the SNSPD is ready to detect the next photon.

Photon detection with high time resolution

In applications such as the lifetime measurement of photoluminescence and photon correlation measurement, high time resolution of photon detectors is of great importance. The time resolution of single photon detectors is characterized by the full width at half maximum (FWHM) of the variation in the temporal delay from the absorption of a photon to the generation of an output electrical pulse, which is defined as the timing jitter.

For example, in an antibunching experiment, the antibunching dip of the correlation function reveals whether there is a single photon emitter. Low timing jitter of the single photon detector will be crucial to achieve a distinct antibunching dip and low g2(0) value.

Single Quantum SNSPDs have demonstrated the lowest timing jitter on the market. This is achieved by cryogenic amplification. A cryogenic amplifier, encased and mounted to the 40K stage of the cryostat, enables the SNSPDs to reach the highest single-to-noise ratio and thus the optimal timing jitter. A typical Single Quantum SNSPD with a cryogenic amplifier reaches <15 ps timing jitter.