Single photon detection

Image intensifiers solutions for single photon counting applications

Single photon counting and imaging are techniques used to detect, measure and visualize extremely weak light signals, down to single photons. Photonis part of Exosens, single photon detectors are  used in a range of applications, such as High end LIDAR, Quantum optics and Quantum telecommunication, High energy physics, Particle physics, Nuclear physics, Fluorescence imaging, Astronomy, Plasma research and others. To detect single photon signals, Photonis proposes various types of high-sensitivity, fast-timing, low-noise, vacuum tube-based single photon detectors for OEM and end-user applications. Our team of experts provide support and consulting services to help select and implement the right single photon detector for applications such as space based High end LIDAR and others.

Photonis multialkali Hi-QE photocathode technology combines a high quantum efficiency (QE) in the 120-1050 nm spectral range, with a dark count rate as low as 50 Hz/cm², thereby achieving a superb signal to noise ratio. When the photocathode is utilized as an ultra-fast electro-optical shutter, sub nanosecond (billionth of a second) gating speeds can be achieved for accurate transient phenomena imaging. Photonis single photon detectors are based on patented high end microchannel plate (MCP) technology offering a high dynamic range and an unmatched collection efficiency of >95%.  

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Frequently asked questions

How do Vacuum Tube-Based Detectors Work?

Vacuum tube-based Image Intensifier tubes consist of several essential components; a Photocathode, a Microchannel Plate (MCP) and an anode. These components work together to amplify input signal, creating a rich and dynamic output.

In the first step, existing ambient light passes through a photocathode, which converts the incoming photon signal into a photo-electron.

In the second step, photoelectrons are drawn by an electrical field into the MCP where they impinge multiple times on the inner walls and thereby multiply several thousands of times. In photon counting applications the multiplied electron signal is detected using an anode. In the instance of photon imaging applications, the anode converts the electron back into photons to produce an image.

What are the Main Challenges in Single Photon Detection?

The main challenges in single photon detection include:

  • Detection efficiency: The detection efficiency refers to the probability of a photon being detected by the detector. Achieving high detection efficiency is crucial in single photon detection applications. The efficiency depends on factors such as the detector technology, photon wavelength, and optical coupling efficiency. Maximizing detection efficiency is essential for capturing the highest possible number of photons.
  • Timing resolution: Many applications involving single photon detection require precise timing information, such as in time-correlated single photon counting (TCSPC) or quantum cryptography. Achieving high timing resolution is challenging, as it requires fast electronics and detectors with short response times to accurately capture the arrival times of individual photons.
  • Spatial resolution
  • Spectral resolution
  • Environmental and operating conditions
  • Integration and scalability: In some applications, there is a need for miniaturized or integrated single photon detectors. Challenges arise in developing compact, robust, and efficient detector designs that can be integrated into complex systems or small-scale devices while maintaining high performance.

What Impacts the Detection Efficiency of Single Photon Detectors?

Quantum Efficiency (QE) is a key objective in the development of single photon detectors, as it directly impacts the overall performance of the device.

What are the Limitations of Current Single Photon Detection Technologies?

Current single photon detection technologies often struggle to achieve high performance across all relevant metrics, such as sensitivity, timing resolution, spatial resolution, and spectral resolution, without compromising on other aspects of detector performance.

What are the Potential Applications of Single Photon Detection in the Future?

Single photon detection has potential applications in a wide range of fields, including quantum communication and computing, biomedical imaging, LIDAR, astronomy, and remote sensing.

How do Researchers Plan to Overcome these Technical Challenges?

Researchers are exploring novel materials, device architectures, and fabrication techniques to address the technical challenges in single photon detection. This includes the development of new materials, such as 2D materials or perovskites, improved detector designs, advanced signal processing algorithms, and innovative cooling and shielding techniques. By pushing the boundaries of what is possible in single photon detection, researchers aim to unlock the full potential of this groundbreaking technology for a wide range of scientific and industrial applications.


About single photon detector

In the cutting-edge world of photonics, the detection, measurement, and visualization of single photons stand as paramount endeavors. Photonis, part of Exosens, employs state-of-the-art technologies to offer a variety of tailored solutions for high precision applications, enabling sensitive measurements, quantum information processing, fundamental research, and imaging in various scientific and technological fields.

Photonis is a leading provider of cutting-edge technology for single photon counting, detection, and imaging. Our expertise in this technique is essential for various industries, such as high-end LIDAR, quantum optics, high energy physics, and astronomy. At the core of our offerings are highly advanced single photon detectors designed with precision to provide unmatched sensitivity, precise timing, and effective noise reduction.

At the core of Photonis' revolutionary advancements in single photon detection is the innovative multialkali Hi-QE photocathode technology, renowned for exceptional quantum efficiency across the infrared spectrum. This technology not only ensures maximum absorption of photons but also minimizes afterpulsing phenomena, resulting in pristine signal integrity even in demanding environments. Moreover, meticulous temperature and voltage control mechanisms guarantee optimal performance, pushing the boundaries of single photon detection to new heights.

Our commitment to excellence extends to the core principles of our vacuum tube-based detector technology. Through the ingenious integration of microchannel plate (MCP) technology, Photonis achieves an active area that maximizes photon capture efficiency while mitigating dark counts to negligible levels. This meticulous process ensures that every pulse is accurately detected, providing researchers with confidence in their measurements.

For applications demanding real-time imaging of transient phenomena, our detectors offer pulse gating speeds in the sub-nanosecond range, enabling precise visualization of even the most fleeting events. Furthermore, our detectors excel in high-energy environments, where robustness and reliability are paramount, making them indispensable tools in particle physics and plasma research.

In the realm of single photon counting, accuracy is crucial. Photonis' MCP-PMT detectors are meticulously engineered to deliver exceptional sensitivity and low noise performance. By harnessing the power of microchannel plates, these detectors excel in capturing individual photons with maximum efficiency, making them indispensable in fields such as medical imaging and nuclear physics.

Beyond single photon counting, Photonis leads the forefront in single photon imaging technology. Through the utilization of Image Intensifier Tubes (IITs), our solutions offer unprecedented sensitivity, allowing for the detection and imaging of individual photons in a variety of applications. Whether in quantum optics or astronomical observation, our IIT-based imaging systems provide researchers with the tools they need to push the boundaries of scientific discovery.

The afterpulsing rate of our detectors is meticulously controlled, ensuring accurate measurements even in high-activity environments.

By carefully managing the flow of current within the device, we optimize its performance and longevity.

Sophisticated cooling mechanisms are integrated into our systems to maintain optimal operating temperatures, guaranteeing consistent and reliable results.

Electrons undergo rapid multiplication as they move through the microchannel plates, leading to an amplified output signal that is directly related to the number of incident photons. 

Our detectors can detect a wide range of wavelengths, making them suitable for a variety of applications in photonics and other fields.

Each component is meticulously designed and rigorously tested to meet the demands of the fastest and most sensitive experiments.

These devices can be operated with precision, allowing researchers to tailor their performance to specific experimental requirements.

In summary, Photonis stands at the forefront of single photon detection, offering unparalleled solutions that empower researchers to explore the realms of quantum mechanics, astrophysics, and beyond. With a steadfast commitment to innovation and excellence, we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in photonics, enabling new discoveries and advancements that shape the future of science and technology.


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