National Institute of Standards & Technology | 2019 Nov 19
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have made one of the highest-performance cameras ever composed of sensors that count single photons, or particles of light.
- Micrograph of NIST’s high-resolution camera made of 1,024 sensors that count single photons, or particles of light. The camera was designed for future space-based telescopes searching for chemical signs of life on other planets. The 32-by-32 sensor array is surrounded by pink and gold wires connecting to electronics that compile the data. Credit: V. Verma/NIST
With more than 1,000 sensors, or pixels, NIST’s camera may be useful in future space-based telescopes searching for chemical signs of life on other planets, and in new instruments designed to search for the elusive “dark matter” believed to constitute most of the “stuff” in the universe.
Described in Optics Express, the camera consists of sensors made from superconducting nanowires, which can detect single photons. They are among the best photon counters in terms of speed, efficiency, and range of color sensitivity. A NIST team used these detectors to demonstrate Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” for example.
The nanowire detectors also have the lowest dark count rates of any type of photon sensor, meaning they don’t count false signals caused by noise rather than photons. This feature is especially useful for dark-matter searches and space-based astronomy. But cameras with more pixels and larger physical dimensions than previously available are required for these applications, and they also need to detect light at the far end of the infrared band, with longer wavelengths than currently practical...
A Kilopixel Array of Superconducting Nanowire Single-Photon Detectors ~ E. E. Wollman et al