Home > Press > New Quantum Dot Transistor Counts Individual Photons
|NIST's modified field-effect transistor can count single photons, or particles of light. When light enters through the transmission window (see electron micrograph of top of device), it penetrates the gallium arsenide absorbing layer and separates electrons from the ‘holes’ they formerly occupied. Quantum dots (red dots) trap the positively charged holes, while electrons flow into the channel (green Xs). By measuring the channel current, researchers can determine the number of photons absorbed.
A transistor containing quantum dots that can count individual photons (the smallest particles of light) has been designed and demonstrated at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The semiconductor device could be integrated easily into electronics and may be able to operate at higher temperatures than other single-photon detectors—practical advantages for applications such as quantum key distribution (QKD) for "unbreakable" encryption using single photons.
New Quantum Dot Transistor Counts Individual Photons
GAITHERSBURG, MD | Posted on October 20th, 2007
The NIST device, described in a new paper,* can accurately count 1, 2 or 3 photons at least 83 percent of the time. It is the first transistor-based detector to count numbers of photons; most other types of single-photon detectors simply "click" in response to any small number of photons. (See table for a comparison of various types of single-photon detectors used at NIST.) Counting requires a linear, stepwise response and low-noise operation. This capability is essential for advanced forms of precision optical metrology—a focus at NIST—and could be used both to detect photons and to evaluate single-photon sources for QKD. The new device also has the potential to be cooled electronically, at much higher temperatures than typical cryogenic photon detectors.
Dubbed QDOGFET, the new detector contains about 1,000 quantum dots, nanoscale clusters of semiconductors with unusual electronic properties. The NIST dots are custom-made to have the lowest energy of any component in the detector, like the bottom of a drain. A voltage applied to the transistor produces an internal current, or channel. Photons enter the device and their energy is transferred to electrons in a semiconductor "absorbing layer," separating the electrons from the "holes" they formerly occupied. As each photon is absorbed, a positively charged hole is trapped by the quantum dot drain, while the corresponding electron is swept into the channel. The amount of current flowing in the channel depends on the number of holes trapped by quantum dots. By measuring the channel response, scientists can count the detected photons. NIST measurements show that, on average, each trapped hole boosts the channel current by about one-fifth of a nanoampere. The detector has an internal quantum efficiency (percentage of absorbed photons that result in trapped holes) of 68 ± 18 percent, a record high for this type of photon detector.
The QDOGFET currently detects single photons at wavelengths of about 800 nanometers. By using different semiconductor materials, NIST researchers hope to make detectors that respond to the longer near-infrared wavelengths used in telecommunications. In addition, researchers hope to boost the external quantum efficiency (percentage of photons hitting the detector that are actually detected), now below 10 percent, and operate the device at faster speeds.
The research is supported in part by the Disruptive Technology Office. The authors include one from Los Alamos National Laboratory and one from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.
* E.J. Gansen, M.A. Rowe, M.B. Greene, D. Rosenberg, T.E. Harvey, M.Y. Su, R.H. Hadfield, S.W. Nam and R.P. Mirin. Photon-number-discriminating detection using a quantum dot, optically gated, field-effect transistor. Nature Photonics. 1, 585 - 588 (2007). Published on-line Oct. 1, 2007.
From automated teller machines and atomic clocks to mammograms and semiconductors, innumerable products and services rely in some way on technology, measurement, and standards provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Founded in 1901, NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST's mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.
For more information, please click here
Copyright © NIST
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
University of Minnesota engineers make sound loud enough to bend light on a computer chip: Device could improve wireless communications systems November 28th, 2014
Study details laser pulse effects on behavior of electrons November 28th, 2014
Single-atom gold catalysts may offer path to low-cost production of fuel and chemicals November 28th, 2014
Production of Anticancer Drug from Nanofibers in Iran November 28th, 2014
Renishaw receives Queen's Award for spectroscopy developments November 25th, 2014
JPK reports on the use of AFM and the CellHesion module to study plant cells at the University of Queensland November 25th, 2014
A*STAR SIMTech wins international award for breaking new ground in actuators: SIMTech invention can be used in an array of industries, and is critical for next generation ultra-precision systems November 24th, 2014
Professional AFM Images with a Three Step Click SmartScan by Park Systems Revolutionizes Atomic Force Microscopy by Automatizing the Imaging Process November 24th, 2014
UO-industry collaboration points to improved nanomaterials: University of Oregon microscope puts spotlight on the surface structure of quantum dots for designing new solar devices November 20th, 2014
Journal Nanotechnology Progress International (JONPI), 2014, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 1-24 October 22nd, 2014
QD Vision Wins Prestigious Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency October 16th, 2014
Ultrafast remote switching of light emission October 2nd, 2014