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Physics

Single-photon detection for measurements at the quantum limit

Image dynamic events and interactions at the smallest scales with remarkably short exposures and over large spectral ranges with Nüvü Camēras’ unmatched noise specifications, enabling you to push the frontiers of knowledge with less concern over technical limitations.

Credit: Heidelberg University

Applications in Physics

Ultracold atom imaging

By cooling carefully prepared atoms or ions to temperatures nearing the absolute zero, a regime is attained where quantum effects are so relatively important as to visibly affect the atoms. The experimental setup can be controlled precisely to generate lattices of atoms and create or observe specific interactions.

Cold atoms can be used for experimental observations of difficult theoretical problems but also for quantum computing developments. Each atom in the lattice functions as a single qubit – its light emission determining the state 0 or 1 of the qubit. Nüvü’s EMCCDs are an ideal technology to monitor the state of these qubits, as they offer single photon sensitivity in wide field.

Ultra-low light measurements

Single atoms generate very little fluorescence, sometimes with fluxes as low as a few photons per second, and cannot be excited at high power to avoid disturbing the sample and losing the carefully prepared quantum states. Moreover, using exposures down to the few microseconds is necessary for certain measurements, compounding the low signal issue.

Low latency quantum computing loops

In a quantum computer, such as a neutral atom/Rydberg platform, the EMCCD is only one part of the system and must relay information on the states of the qubits as quickly as possible to other components, such as the quantum control system, to enable the swift adjustments necessary for fault-tolerant quantum computing.

The EMCCD is thus part of a loop where the state of the qubits is continuously monitored and adjusted – meaning high frame rates are crucial to computing performance. Nüvü Camēras uniquely offers 30 MHz pixel readout rates on all its models for unmatched imaging speeds and supports multi-output sensors, such as with the HNü 240, which enable faster frames rates even with larger sensors.

Better photon-counting performances

With lower clock-induced charges, the main source of noise in EMCCDs, Nüvü can reach an EM gain of up to 5000, whilst typical EMCCDs are limited to 1000. This higher gain, powered by our patented electronics, is crucial to obtain the best photon-counting performances and allows more genuine photons detected.

These electronics also allow to drive the sensor faster and obtain higher frame rates or to use specific readout modes to reach very low exposure times. Thus, Nüvü will both reach the required imaging rates and have the sensitivity to obtain high quality images in these conditions. More information on photon counting with EMCCDs is available in Nüvü Camēras’ photon counting tutorial here.

Demonstration: Studying quantum gases

Prof. Selim Jochim and Prof. Fred Jendrzejewski at the University of Heidelberg, a leader in quantum physics research, both research quantum gases. Using Nüvü’s HNü 512, with the lowest clock-induced charges on the market and its improved photon counting performance, they have successfully completed their observations of quantum phenomena down to the single atom and paved the way for the future of quantum computing.

Trapped ions

In order to develop quantum computers, first we must achieve better comprehension of their basic unit of information; the quantum bit (qubit). Several ions can be prepared to be in a superposed state, acting as qubits, and then trapped in a standing wave potential to form an ion chain. This chain can be used as a register to test operations and algorithms, which will deepen our understanding of quantum computing and eventually allow scaling up to larger processing units.

Short emission windows

Due to the short-lived nature of some ions, or simply to allow multiple tests in quick succession, reaching very short exposures is crucial to monitor trapped ion experiments.

EMCCDs are uniquely suited for this task as, due to their readout architectures, the horizontal size of the imaging region of interest does not impact frame rate. This means imaging a long ion chain can be done at extremely high frame rates since they only occupy a few lines on the sensor – this is especially the case with Nüvü offering a faster 30 MHz readout rate on all EMCCD sensors.

Moreover, Nüvü offers flexible triggering schemes to enable precise synchronization with laser excitation no matter the setup used. Waiting time between experiments can also be used to further reduce minimal exposure time.

A low light detection challenge

Using low exposure times creates another issue, as there is less time for signal to accumulate on the sensor. This means accurate detection can be difficult without specialized cameras due to the presence of read noise. This challenge is all the more relevant since many ions emit in the UV range, where typical camera quantum efficiencies are lower.

Nüvü offers multiple UV solutions to improve quantum efficiency in UV wavelengths down to 150 nm, greatly increasing the quality of your measurements in these wavelengths. Thanks to the EMCCD’s electron multiplication, your effective read noise is negligible and with our CCCP the next dominant source of noise, the clock induced charges, are significantly reduced. This allows for high SNR even at extremely low exposure times.

Imaging photon pairs

To characterize quantum entanglement, it is essential to have the ability to detect photon pairs; meaning the detector must have single photon detection capabilities. Unfortunately, many photon counting detectors suffer from low quantum efficiency or must be placed in arrays with low fill factors to reconstruct an image from multiple devices.

EMCCDs built for photon counting

Nüvü Cameras’s EMCCDs are designed for the best photon counting performances, with a single-photon detections probability of over 91%. Thanks to redesigned electronics that significantly lower clock-induced charges, the main source of noise in EMCCDs, Nüvü’s cameras can achieve an EM gain of up to 5000. With a quantum efficiency of over 95% and fill factor of 100%, Nüvü combines wide-field imaging and exceptional photon counting performances.

Demonstration: The importance of gain for faint flux imaging

Prof. François Amblard at the Institute for Basic Science is an expert in a variety of photon counting applications.

The article demonstrates the requirements of high efficiency photon counting with EMCCDs and unique faint-flux detection capabilities attained with Nüvü’s HNü 512. It illustrates the importance of gain and clock-induced charges on photon-counting performances.

Ready to count Photons?

Any questions about EMCCD or low light imaging? Nüvü Camēras experts can provide advices on your low light imaging options.

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