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Quantum Sensors

Summary:

The Quantum Sensors Project develops sensors based on quantum phenomena for spectroscopy, imaging, and other precision measurements for wavelengths from dc through gamma rays. We integrate these sensors with custom superconducting and room temperature electronics, cryogenic structures, and software to create complete measurement systems. We work with collaborators in industry, academia, and other government agencies to apply this measurement capability to applications including materials analysis, particle physics, nuclear nonproliferation and forensics, astronomy, cosmology, and homeland defense.

Description:

The Quantum Sensors Project is a world leader in developing new detector systems. We have developed transition edge sensors (TES) for use in a variety of applications. These devices utilize a strip of superconducting material, biased in its transition from normal to superconducting states, as an extremely sensitive thermometer. This thermometer is attached to an absorber that is isolated from a cold (~100 mK) heat sink by a micromachined structure. The heat deposited by incident photons is then measured to accurately determine their energy. These TES detectors and superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) readout circuits are designed, fabricated, and implemented for use by a variety of different scientific and technical communities.

One example is the development of gamma-ray and alpha particle detectors based on TES technology that have more than 10 times better energy resolution than conventional detectors. These detectors can resolve more lines in the complicated gamma-ray spectra of nuclear materials such as uranium and plutonium isotopic mixtures. The gamma-ray devices are being developed specifically to help in the verification of international nonproliferation treaties, by determining the plutonium content of spent nuclear fuel. The alpha particle devices have similarly impressive performance and have demonstrated the ability to analyze mixed-actinide samples. These detectors are being developed for use in nuclear forensics. Prototypes of both systems have been delivered to our collaborators at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In the infrared regime, our TES bolometers have achieved world-record sensitivity. This impressive result confirms the utility of TES technology for this application as well. We are actively collaborating with many groups and are providing either detectors or superconducting readout and multiplexing circuits to many infrared and sub-millimeter instruments. Most recently, our detector efforts are focused on developing new polarization sensitive bolometers for Cosmic Microwave Background measurements.

Major Accomplishments:

  • Gamma-ray spectrometer system delivered to Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Alpha particle spectrometer system delivered to Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • World-record alpha particle spectral resolution
  • Delivered detector and multiplexer components to several astronomical instruments including the Atacama Cosmological Telescope, SCUBA-2, SPIDER, and the South Pole Telescope.
  • Designed, fabricated, and tested polarization-sensitive pixels suitable for cosmic microwave background measurements
  • Demonstrated (with Konrad Lehnert, Physics Laboratory) parametric amplifiers with sub-quantum noise-squeezed behavior
SQUID-based multiplexer for SCUBA-2:  This 1280 pixel (32 column x 40 row) multiplexer is used as the readout circuit for a submillimeter-wavelength astronomical camera for the SCUBA2 instrument currently operating on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
SQUID-based multiplexer for SCUBA-2: This 1280 pixel (32 column x 40 row) multiplexer is used as the readout circuit for a submillimeter-wavelength astronomical camera for the SCUBA2 instrument.

End Date:

ongoing

Lead Organizational Unit:

pml

Source of Extramural Funding:

NASA, DOE, DHS

Customers/Contributors/Collaborators:

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SQUID multiplexer for IR detectors
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, SQUID multiplexer for IR detectors
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, X-ray microcalorimeter arrays
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Magnetic Microcalorimeters
  • UK Astronomy Technology Center, SCUBA2 camera
  • University of Edinburgh /Scottish Microelectronics Centre, SCUBA2 camera
  • Raytheon Vision Systems Inc., SCUBA2 camera
  • University of Cardiff, SCUBA2 camera
  • Lockheed Martin, X-ray detector development for solar physics
  • Stanford University, X-ray detector development for solar physics
  • Star Cryoelectronics, X-ray detector development
  • Princeton University, IR Detector and SQUID multiplexer development, deployment of SQUID multiplexers on the Atacama Cosmological Telescope
  • University of Chicago, Detector and SQUID multiplexer development for CMB
  • University of Colorado, Detector and SQUID multiplexer development for CMB
  • University of Pennsylvania, Detector and SQUID multiplexer development for CMB, deployment of SQUID multiplexers ant the Greenbank Telescope

Facilities/Tools Used:

Boulder Quantum Fabrication Facility

Staff:

Jim Beall
Lisa Ferreira
Gene Hilton
Michael Niemack
Carl Reintsema
Joel Ullom
Leila Vale
Ki Won Yoon
Kent Irwin

Contact

Kent Irwin
(303) 497-4991

325 Broadway
Boulder, CO  80305-3328