A new class of microwave-operated THz power detectors based on the NbN hot-electron-bolometer (HEB) mixer is proposed. The injected microwave signal (~1 GHz) serves the dual purpose of pumping the HEB element and enabling the read-out of the internal state of the device. A cryogenic amplifier amplifies the reflected microwave signal from the device and a homodyne scheme recovers the effects of the incident THz radiation. Two modes of operation have been identified, depending on the level of incident radiation. For weak signals, we use a chopper to chop the incident radiation against a black body reference and a lock-in amplifier to perform synchronous detection of the homodyne readout. The voltage measured is proportional to the incident power, and we estimate an optical noise equivalent power of ~5pW/ √Hz at 0.83 THz. At higher signal levels, the homodyne circuit recovers the stream of steady relaxation oscillation pulses from the HEB device. The frequency of these pulses is in the MHz frequency range and bears a linear relationship with the incident THz radiation over an input power range of ~15 dB. A digital frequency counter is used to measure THz power. The applicable power range is between 1 nW and 1 μW.
We investigate the response mechanism of nanowire superconducting single-photon detectors (SSPDs) made of amorphous MoxSi1-x. We study the dependence of photon count and dark count rates on bias current in magnetic fields up to 113 mT at 1.7 K temperature. The observed behavior of photon counts is similar to the one recently observed in NbN SSPDs. Our results show that the detecting mechanism of relatively high-energy photons does not involve the vortex penetration from the edges of the film, and on the contrary, the detecting mechanism of low-energy photons probably involves the vortex penetration from the film edges.
We report an experimental investigation of the hot spot evolution in superconducting single photons detectors (SSPDs) made of disordered superconducting materials with different diffusivity and energy down-conversion time: 33-nmthickNbN and 23-nm-thick NbC films. We have demonstrated that in NbC film only 405 nm photons produce sufficiently largehot-spot to trigger a single-photon response. The dependence of detection efficiency on bias current for 405-nm photons in NbC is similar to that for 3400-nm photons in NbN. In NbC large diffusivity and down-conversion time result in 1D critical current suppression profile compared to usual 2D profile in NbN.
In superconducting single-photon detectors SSPD the efficiency of local suppression of superconductivity and hotspot formation is controlled by diffusivity and electron-phonon interaction time. Here we selected a material, 3.6-nm-thick MoNx film, which features diffusivity close to those of NbN traditionally used for SSPD fabrication, but with electron-phonon interaction time an order of magnitude larger. In MoNx detectors we study the dependence of detection efficiency on bias current, photon energy, and strip width and compare it with NbN SSPD. We observe non-linear current-energy dependence in MoNx SSPD and more pronounced plateaus in dependences of detection efficiency on bias current which we attribute to longer electronphonon interaction time
In superconducting single-photon detectors (SSPD), the efficiency of local suppression of superconductivity and hotspot formation is controlled by diffusivity and electron-phonon interaction time. Here, we selected a material, 3.6-nm-thick MoNx film, which features diffusivity close to those of NbN traditionally used for SSPD fabrication, but with electron-phonon interaction time an order of magnitude larger. In MoN∞ detectors, we study the dependence of detection efficiency on bias current, photon energy, and strip width, and compare it with NbN SSPD. We observe nonlinear current-energy dependence in MoNx SSPD and more pronounced plateaus in dependences of detection efficiency on bias current, which we attribute to longer electron-phonon interaction time.
We report on the development of a multipixel hot electron bolometer (HEB) receiver fabricated using silicon membrane technology. The receiver comprises a 2 × 2 array of four HEB mixers, fabricated on a single chip. The HEB mixer chip is based on a superconducting NbN thin-film deposited on top of the silicon-on-insulator (SOI) substrate. The thicknesses of the device layer and handling layer of the SOI substrate are 20 and 300 μm, respectively. The thickness of the device layer is chosen such that it corresponds to a quarter-wave in silicon at 1.35 THz. The HEB mixer is integrated with a bow-tie antenna structure, in turn designed for coupling to a circular waveguide, fed by a monolithic drilled smooth-walled horn array.
We present thorough measurements of the intrinsic detection efficiency in the wavelength range from 350 to 2500 nm for meander-type TaN and NbN superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors with different widths of the nanowire. The width varied from 70 nm to 130 nm. The open-beam configuration allowed us to accurately normalize measured spectra and to extract the intrinsic detection efficiency. For detectors from both materials the intrinsic detection efficiency at short wavelengths amounts at 100% and gradually decreases at wavelengths larger than the specific cut-off wavelengths, which decreases with the width of the nanowire. Furthermore, we show that applying weak magnetic fields perpendicular to the meander plane decreases the smallest detectable photon flux.
We have measured the energy relaxation times from the electron bath to the phonon bath in strongly disordered TiN films grown by atomic layer deposition. The measured values of τeph vary from 12 to 91 ns. Over a temperature range from 3.4 to 1.7 K, they follow T-3 temperature dependence, which are consistent with values of τeph reported previously for sputtered TiN films. For the most disordered film, with an effective elastic mean free path of 0.35 nm, we find a faster relaxation and a stronger temperature dependence, which may be an additional indication of the influence of strong disorder on a superconductor.
We characterize superconducting antenna-coupled hot-electron bolometers for direct detection of terahertz radiation operating at a temperature of 9.0 K. The estimated value of responsivity obtained from lumped-element theory is strongly different from the measured one. A numerical calculation of the detector responsivity is developed, using the Euler method, applied to the system of heat balance equations written in recurrent form. This distributed element model takes into account the effect of nonuniform heating of the detector along its length and provides results that are in better agreement with the experiment. At a signal frequency of 2.5 THz, the measured value of the optical detector noise equivalent power is 2.0 × 10-13 W · Hz-0.5. The value of the bolometer time constant is 35 ps. The corresponding energy resolution is about 3 aJ. This detector has a sensitivity similar to that of the state-of-the-art sub-millimeter detectors operating at accessible cryogenic temperatures, but with a response time several orders of magnitude shorter.
A transformer type superconducting fault current limiter (FCL) for electric power grids was developed utilizing a nonlinear resistor made of the second generation HTS wire. Using of the second generation HTS wire instead of the first one was found to reduce by an order the required amount of superconducting materials. Fault current limiting action and transients in an electric circuit with the prototype FCL have been studied. The effective limitation of peak and steady state fault current was demonstrated using the FCL. The physical basis of the FCL operation was investigated by studying a superconducting-to-normal transition in the second generation HTS wires.
Traditionally, hot-electron-bolometer (HEB) mixers are employed for THz and “super-THz” heterodyne detection. To explore the near-IR spectral range, we propose a fiber-coupled NbN film based HEB mixer. To enhance the incident-light absorption, a quasi-antenna consisting of a set of parallel stripes of gold is used. To study the antenna effect on the mixer performance, we have experimentally studied a set of devices with different size of the Au stripe and spacing between the neighboring stripes. With use of the well-known isotherm technique we have estimated the absorption efficiency of the mixer, and the maximum efficiency has been observed for devices with the smallest pitch of the alternating NbN and NbN-Au stripes. Also, a proper alignment of the incident E⃗-field with respect to the stripes allows us to improve the coupling further. Studying IV-characteristics of the mixer under differently-aligned E⃗-field of the incident radiation, we have noticed a difference in their shape. This observation suggests that a difference exists in the way the two waves with orthogonal polarizations parallel and perpendicular E⃗-field to the stripes heat the electrons in the HEB mixer. The latter results in a variation in the electron temperature distribution over the HEB device irradiated by the two waves.
The superconducting energy gap is a fundamental characteristic of a superconducting film, which, together with the applied pump power and the biasing setup, defines the instantaneous resistive state of the Hot Electron Bolometer (HEB) mixer at any given bias point on the I-V curve. In this paper we report on a series of experiments, in which we subjected the HEB to radiation over a wide frequency range along with parallel microwave injection. We have observed three distinct regimes of operation of the HEB, depending on whether the radiation is above the gap frequency, far below it or close to it. These regimes are driven by the different patterns of photon absorption. The experiments have allowed us to derive the approximate gap frequency of the device under test as about 585 GHz. Microwave injection was used to probe the HEB impedance. Spontaneous switching between the superconducting (low resistive) state and a quasi-normal (high resistive) state was observed. The switching pattern depends on the particular regime of HEB operation and can assume a random pattern at pump frequencies below the gap to a regular relaxation oscillation running at a few MHz when pumped above the gap.
Using a microwave probe as a tool, we have performed experiments aimed at understanding the origin of the output-power fluctuations in hot-electron-bolometer (HEB) mixers. We use a probe frequency of 1.5 GHz. The microwave probe picks up impedance changes of the HEB, which are examined upon demodulation of the reflected wave outside the cryostat. This study shows that the HEB mixer operates in two different regimes under a terahertz pump. At a low pumping level, strong pulse modulation is observed, as the device switches between the superconducting state and the normal state at a rate of a few megahertz. When pumped much harder, to approximate the low-noise mixer operating point, residual modulation can still be observed, showing that the HEB mixer is intrinsically unstable even in the resistive state. Based on these observations, we introduced a low-frequency termination to the HEB mixer. By terminating the device in a 50-Ω resistor in the megahertz frequency range, we have been able to improve the output-power Allan time of our HEB receiver by a factor of four to about 10 s for a detection bandwidth of 15 MHz, with a corresponding gain fluctuation of about 0.035%.
In this paper, we present our approaches to the development of fiber-coupled superconducting single photon detectors with enhanced photon absorption. For such devices we have measured detection efficiency in wavelength range from 500 to 2000 nm. The best fiber coupled devices exhibit detection efficiency of 44.5% at 1310 nm wavelength and 35.5% at 1550 nm at 10 dark counts per second.
We have measured the electron-phonon energyrelaxation time, 𝝉𝒆𝒑𝒉, in superconducting boron-doped diamond films grown on silicon substrate by chemical vapour deposition. The observed electron-phonon cooling times vary from 160 ns at 2.70 K to 410 ns at 1.8 K following a 𝑻!𝟐-dependence. The data are consistent with the values of 𝝉𝒆𝒑𝒉 previously reported for single-crystal boron-doped diamond films epitaxially grown on diamond substrate. Such a noticeable slow electron-phonon relaxation in boron-doped diamond, in combination with a high normal-state resistivity confirms a potential of superconducting diamond for ultrasensitive superconducting bolometers.
Slow Electron-Phonon Cooling in Superconducting Diamond Films
We present the results of a stabilization scheme for terahertz receivers based on NbN hot-electron bolometer (HEB) mixers that uses microwave radiation with a frequency much lower than the gap frequency of NbN to compensate for mixer current fluctuations. A feedback control loop, which actively controls the power level of the injected microwave radiation, has successfully been implemented to stabilize the operating point of the HEB mixer. This allows us to increase the receiver Allan time to 10 s and also improve the temperature resolution of the receiver by about 30% in the total power mode of operation.
Superconducting nanowire single photon detector for coherent detection of weak signals
Traditional photon detectors are operated in direct detection mode, counting incident photons with a known quantum efficiency. Here we have investigated a Superconducting-Nanowire-Single-Photon-Detector (SNSPD) operated as a photon counting mixer at telecommunication wavelength around 1.5 micrometers. This regime of operation combines the excellent sensitivity of a photon counting detector with the excellent spectral resolution given by the heterodyne technique. Advantageously, we have found that low LO power of the order of hundreds of femtowatts to a few picowatts is sufficient for clear observation of the incident test signal with the sensitivity approaching the quantum limit. With further optimization, the required LO power could be significantly reduced, which is promising for many practical applications, such as development of receiver matrices or recording ultra-low signals at a level of less-than-one-photon per second.
In addition to a traditional NbN-based SNSPD operated with normal incidence coupling, we also use detectors with a travelling wave geometry, where a NbN nanowire is placed on the top of a Si3N4 nanophotonic waveguide. This approach is fully scalable and a large number of devices could be integrated on a single chip.
We present the results of direct measurements of the temperature resolution of an HEB receiver operating at 810 GHz, in both continuum and spectroscopic modes. In the continuum mode, the input of the receiver was switched between black bodies with different physical temperatures. With a system noise temperature of around 1100 K, the receiver was able to resolve loads which differed in temperature by about 1 K over an integration time of 5 seconds. This resolution is significantly worse than the value of 0.07 K given by the radiometer equation. In the spectroscopic mode, a gas cell filled with carbonyl sulphide (OCS) gas was used and the emission line at 813.3537060 GHz was measured using the receiver in conjunction with a digital spectrometer. From the observed spectra, we determined that the measurement uncertainty of the equivalent emission temperature was 2.8 K for an integration time of 0.25 seconds and a spectral resolution of 12 MHz, compared to a 1.4 K temperature resolution given by the radiometer equation. This relative improvement is due to the fact that at short integration times the contribution from 1/f noise and drift are less dominant. In both modes, the temperature resolution was improved by about 40% with the use of a feedback loop which adjusted the level of an injected microwave radiation to maintain a constant operating current of the HEB mixer. This stabilization scheme has proved to be very effective to keep the temperature resolution of the HEB receiver to close to the theoretical value given by the radiometer equation.