Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Superconducting transition-edge sensors optimized for high-efficiency photon-number resolving detectors



Adriana E. Lita, Brice R. Calkins, Lenson Pellouchoud, Aaron J. Miller, Sae Woo Nam


Superconducting photon detectors have emerged as a powerful new option for detecting single photons. System detection efficiency that incorporates the quantum efficiency of the device and system losses is one of the most important single-photon detector performance metrics for quantum information applications. Superconducting transition-edge sensors (TESs) are microcalorimeters that have the ability of distinguishing single photons with negligible dark counts. In addition, TESs are capable of directly measuring the photon number in a pulse of light. We have achieved near-unity system detection efficiency with TESs at particular wavelengths in the near-infrared by using multilayer structures that enhance the absorption of light into the active device material. We describe the design of the multilayer structure enabling high detection efficiency TESs including issues and requirements for obtaining detection efficiency values higher than 99 %. We describe the device fabrication and finally, show recent results of devices optimized for high detection efficiency using the multilayer structure.
Proceedings Title
SPIE symposium on SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing
Conference Dates
April 5-9, 2010
Conference Location
Orlando, FL
Conference Title
Advanced Photon Counting Techniques IV


photon number resolving, single photon detector, superconducting transition-edge detector


Lita, A. , Calkins, B. , Pellouchoud, L. , Miller, A. and Nam, S. (2010), Superconducting transition-edge sensors optimized for high-efficiency photon-number resolving detectors, SPIE symposium on SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing, Orlando, FL, [online], (Accessed July 21, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created April 27, 2010, Updated November 10, 2018