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Superconducting nanowire photon-number-resolving detector at telecommunication wavelengths

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 01 June 2008


Optical-to-electrical conversion, which is the basis of the operation of optical detectors, can be linear or nonlinear. When high sensitivities are needed, single-photon detectors are used, which operate in a strongly nonlinear mode, their response being independent of the number of detected photons. However, photon-number-resolving detectors are needed, particularly in quantum optics, where n-photon states are routinely produced. In quantum communication and quantum information processing, the photon-number-resolving functionality is key to many protocols, such as the implementation of quantum repeaters1 and linear-optics quantum computing2. A linear detector with single-photon sensitivity can also be used for measuring a temporal waveform at extremely low light levels, such as in long-distance optical communications, fluorescence spectroscopy and optical time-domain reflectometry. We demonstrate here a photon-number-resolving detector based on parallel superconducting nanowires and capable of counting up to four photons at telecommunication wavelengths, with an ultralow dark count rate and high counting frequency.

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Figure 1: The parallel nanowire detector (PND).
Figure 2: The PND photoresponse.
Figure 3: The probability of n-photon detection versus incoming mean photon number.
Figure 4: Histograms of the photoresponse voltage peak.
Figure 5: Experimental probability distribution versus mean photon number.


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This work was supported by the Swiss National Foundation through the ‘‘Professeur boursier’ and NCCR Quantum Photonics programs, EU FP6 STREP ‘SINPHONIA’ (contract no. NMP4-CT-2005-16433), EU FP6 IP ‘QAP’ (contract no. 15848), the grant ‘Non-equilibrium processes after IR photon absorption in thin-film superconducting nanostructures’ from the Russian Agency on Education and grant no. 02.445.11.7434 from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science for support of leading scientific schools. The authors thank B. Deveaud-Plédran, B. Dwir and H. Jotterand for useful discussion and technical support and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Electron Microscopy (CIME) for supplying TEM and SEM facilities. A.G. gratefully acknowledges a PhD fellowship at University of Roma TRE.

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Correspondence to Francesco Marsili.

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Divochiy, A., Marsili, F., Bitauld, D. et al. Superconducting nanowire photon-number-resolving detector at telecommunication wavelengths. Nature Photon 2, 302–306 (2008).

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