A single-photon detector in the far-infrared range

S. Komiyama, O. Astafiev, V. Antonov, T. Kutsuwa, H. Hiral

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

354 Citations (Scopus)


The far-infrared region (wavelengths in the range 10 μm-1 mm) is one of the richest areas of spectroscopic research, encompassing the rotational spectra of molecules and vibrational spectra of solids, liquids and gases. But studies in this spectral region are hampered by the absence of sensitive detectors-despite recent efforts to improve superconducting bolometers, attainable sensitivities are currently far below the level of single-photon detection. This is in marked contrast to the visible and near-infrared regions (wavelengths shorter than about 1.5 μm), in which single-photon counting is possible using photomultiplier tubes. Here we report the detection of single far-infrared photons in the wavelength range 175-210 μm (6.0-7.1 meV), using a single-electron transistor consisting of a semiconductor quantum dot in high magnetic field. We detect, with a time resolution of a millisecond, an incident flux of 0.1 photons per second on an effective detector area of 0.1 mm2-a sensitivity that exceeds previously reported values by a factor of more than 104. The sensitivity is a consequence of the unconventional detection mechanism, in which one absorbed photon leads to a current of 106-1012 electrons through the quantum dot. By contrast, mechanisms of conventional detectors or photon assisted tunnelling in single-electron transistors produce only a few electrons per incident photon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-407
Number of pages3
Issue number6768
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


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