A scalable multi-photon coincidence detector based on superconducting nanowires


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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Fig. 1: Device architecture and operating mechanism.
Fig. 2: Timing-logic-based two-photon detection in a four-element detector chain.
Fig. 3: Resolving more than two photons based on pulse shape processing.


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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).

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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.

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

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

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Supplementary Text, Supplementary Figures 1–13

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Zhu, D., Zhao, QY., Choi, H. et al. A scalable multi-photon coincidence detector based on superconducting nanowires. Nature Nanotech 13, 596–601 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-018-0160-9

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