SBIR Success Story: Princeton Lightwave, Inc.
2555 US Route 130 S.
Project Title: Avalanche Photodiodes for Enhanced Photon Counting at 1.5 um
NIST Award(s): SB134105W0850
Technology Developed: Princeton Lightwave Inc (PLI) offers the highest performance single photon avalanche diodes commercially available for photon counting in the wavelength range between 0.9 to 1.6 um. These Geiger-mode detectors provide single photon sensitivity with high detection efficiency, low dark count rate, and low jitter in product formats ranging from components to an integrated turn-key single photon receiver.
Key Words: single photon, avalanche photodiode, photon counting, Geiger mode, indium phosphide, InGaAs, near infrared, shortwave infrared
Uses of Technology/Products/Service: Single photon avalanche diodes (SPADs) are often the most practical solution – from perspectives including performance, ease-of-use, cost, and commercial availability – for single photon detection in the wavelength range from 0.9 to 1.6 um. These detectors achieve high performance at temperatures that are accessible using hybridly integrated thermoelectric coolers and are often preferred over detectors that require more expensive and burdensome cooling. They are also more compact, robust, and reliable than tube-based technologies such as photomultiplier tubes. SPADs are often the best solution when single photon detection is required for fiber optic-based applications such as quantum communications and optical time domain reflectometry, and they have emerged as a preferred detector for photon-starved free space applications such as near-infrared LADAR/LIDAR systems and free space optical communications.
Benefit to Company: Our NIST SBIR provided development resources for exploring fundamental issues such as possible alternative materials systems for near infra-red SPADs as well as more applied aspects of commercializing the basic detector technology. Through this effort, we demonstrated the lowest dark count rate performance available and have continued to steadily improve this critical performance metric. With momentum provided by this NIST SBIR program and others, our flagship SPAD-based product – an integrated single photon receiver – is now offered with performance that exceeds earlier generations by a factor of 10. This NIST program also provided a context for our teaming with one of the premier university groups involved with research on single photon avalanche diodes.
Impact on Company Growth: Tactical, Strategic
How Product Was Commercialized: A disparate set of end users of this technology dictated that PLI provide solutions at different levels of integration. Using our background expertise in telecom component design and manufacturing, we developed product formats covering a range of chip-on-carrier sub-assemblies, free-space and fiber-coupled components, modules with integrated temperature control, and turn-key receiver sub-systems with electronics and firmware. Our discrete single detector technology has also been instrumental in fostering further development of detector array formats with support from other government agencies. These array-based devices are at the core of a new suite of PLI products for single-photon three-dimensional imaging and high-performance free space communications.