Heterodyne detection at near-infrared wavelengths with a superconducting NbN hot-electron bolometer mixer
We report on the development of a highly sensitive optical receiver for heterodyne IR spectroscopy at the communication wavelength of 1.5 μm (200 THz) by use of a superconducting hot-electron bolometer. The results are important for the resolution of narrow spectral molecular lines in the near-IR range for the study of astronomical objects, as well as for quantum optical tomography and fiber-optic sensing. Receiver configuration as well as fiber-to-detector light coupling designs are discussed. Light absorption of the superconducting detectors was enhanced by nano-optical antennas, which were coupled to optical fibers. An intermediate frequency (IF) bandwidth of about 3 GHz was found in agreement with measurements at 300 GHz, and a noise figure of about 25 dB was obtained that was only 10 dB above the quantum limit.