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A scalable multi-photon coincidence detector based on superconducting nanowires

Nature Nanotechnologyvolume 13pages596601 (2018) | Download Citation


Coincidence detection of single photons is crucial in numerous quantum technologies and usually requires multiple time-resolved single-photon detectors. However, the electronic readout becomes a major challenge when the measurement basis scales to large numbers of spatial modes. Here, we address this problem by introducing a two-terminal coincidence detector that enables scalable readout of an array of detector segments based on superconducting nanowire microstrip transmission line. Exploiting timing logic, we demonstrate a sixteen-element detector that resolves all 136 possible single-photon and two-photon coincidence events. We further explore the pulse shapes of the detector output and resolve up to four-photon events in a four-element device, giving the detector photon-number-resolving capability. This new detector architecture and operating scheme will be particularly useful for multi-photon coincidence detection in large-scale photonic integrated circuits.

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We thank J. Daley and M. Mondol for technical support in nanofabrication; C. Chen and F. F. C. Wong for use of their electro-optic modulator; E. Toomey, B. Butters, C.-S. Kim and the QNN-SNSPD team for discussion and assistance. This research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant under contract number FA9550-14-1-0052; National Science Foundation grant under contract number ECCS-1509486; and the DARPA Detect programme through the Army Research Office under cooperative agreement number W911NF-16-2-0192. D.Z. was supported by a National Science Scholarship from A*STAR, Singapore. H.C. was supported in part by a Samsung Scholarship. T.-J.L. was supported by the Department of Defense National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. A.E.D. was supported by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Technology Research Fellowship (award number NNX14AL48H).

Author information


  1. Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

    • Di Zhu
    • , Qing-Yuan Zhao
    • , Hyeongrak Choi
    • , Tsung-Ju Lu
    • , Andrew E. Dane
    • , Dirk Englund
    •  & Karl K. Berggren
  2. Research Institute of Superconductor Electronics, School of Electronic Science and Engineering, Nanjing University, Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

    • Qing-Yuan Zhao


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D.Z., Q.-Y.Z., K.K.B. and D.E. conceived and designed the experiment. D.Z. designed the device. D.Z. and T.-J.L. fabricated the device. D.Z., Q.-Y.Z. and H.C. performed the measurement. D.Z. and A.E.D. deposited the superconducting film. K.K.B. and D.E. supervised the project. All authors discussed the results and contributed to writing the paper.

Competing interests

A related patent (WO2017136585A1) was filed by Q.-Y.Z. and K.K.B. through MIT.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Qing-Yuan Zhao or Karl K. Berggren.

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