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Single-photon imager based on a superconducting nanowire delay line

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 01 September 2017

This article has been updated


Detecting spatial and temporal information of individual photons is critical to applications in spectroscopy, communication, biological imaging, astronomical observation and quantum-information processing. Here we demonstrate a scalable single-photon imager using a single continuous superconducting nanowire that is not only a single-photon detector but also functions as an efficient microwave delay line. In this context, photon-detection pulses are guided in the nanowire and enable the readout of the position and time of photon-absorption events from the arrival times of the detection pulses at the nanowire's two ends. Experimentally, we slowed down the velocity of pulse propagation to 2% of the speed of light in free space. In a 19.7 mm long nanowire that meandered across an area of 286 × 193 μm2, we were able to resolve 590 effective pixels with a temporal resolution of 50 ps (full width at half maximum). The nanowire imager presents a scalable approach for high-resolution photon imaging in space and time.

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Figure 1: SNSPI.
Figure 2: Spatial and temporal detection by the SNSPI.
Figure 3: Detection performance of the SNSPI.

Change history

  • 14 August 2017

    In the version of this Article originally published, in Fig. 3c, in the y axis label, the units '(c.p.s.)' should not have been included; the label should have read "Dark counts". This has now been corrected in the online versions of the Article.


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We thank R. Hobbs, C.-S. Kim and M. Mondol for their technical support in nanofabrication, and P. Mauskopf, J.K.W. Yang, Z. Zhang and E. Toomey for scientific discussion. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grants under contract no. ECCS-1509486 (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)) and no. ECCS-1509253 (University of North Florida) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant under contract no. FA9550-14-1-0052. D.Z. is supported by a National Science Scholarship from A*STAR, Singapore. N.C. thanks the Roberto Rocca project for financial support during his visit to MIT. A.E.D. was supported by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Technology Research Fellowship (award no. NNX14AL48H). A.N.M. was supported by a fellowship from the National Science Foundation iQuISE program (award no. 0801525).

Author information




Q.-Y.Z. and K.K.B. came up with the initial idea. Q.-Y.Z. designed and fabricated the nanowire imager. Q.-Y.Z. and D.Z. took the optical measurements. Q.-Y.Z., N.C., F.B. and H.-Z.W. characterized initial devices. A.E.D. developed the superconducting films. Q.-Y.Z., A.N.M. and D.F.S. did the microwave simulations. Q.-Y.Z. analysed the data and programmed the imaging script. K.K.B. supervised the project. Q.-Y.Z. and K.K.B. wrote the paper with input from all the other authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karl K. Berggren.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Zhao, QY., Zhu, D., Calandri, N. et al. Single-photon imager based on a superconducting nanowire delay line. Nature Photon 11, 247–251 (2017).

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