Packaging and Characterization of NbN Superconducting Nanowire Single Photon Detectors
Orgiazzi, Jean-Luc Francois-Xavier
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Superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs) are nanodevices usually made from thin niobium nitride (NbN) films. Operated at liquid helium temperature, they can exhibit high detection efficiency with low dark-counts associated with a fast response time and a low timing jitter. Covering a broad detection range from ultraviolet to mid-infrared, SNSPDs are a very attractive alternative to silicon or gallium arsenide based semiconductor detectors for fiber based telecommunication when single-photon sensitivity and high counting rates are necessary. Efficient packaging and fiber coupling of a SNSPD is in itself a real challenge and is often a limiting factor in reaching high system quantum efficiency. Our approach makes use of a controlled expansion alloy which has been adequately heat treated to enhance its characteristics for cryogenic operation. This insures the integrity of the optical coupling at cryogenic temperatures while done at room temperature. It also provides a good attenuation for electromagnetic interference due to the high relative permeability of the nickel-iron alloy. The small form factor of this pigtailed optical fiber package makes it versatile and could be easily integrated with a commercial cryogen-free system or simply dipped into a standard helium transport Dewar. We report on our theoretical and experimental methodology to evaluate the optical coupling quality and present the optoelectronic characterization of two devices packaged in this way. Electrical simulation is studied to understand the speed limitation factor inherent to these devices and preliminary speed and jitter measurements are reported.