Major new boost for infrared photon counting sensors for quantum technologies


A team of top UK scientists and engineers have come together for an ambitious five year programme of development of next generation photon counting technologies.  These sensors and cameras are capable of capturing individual quanta of infrared light – single photons.  This work will underpin a host of key emerging 21st century quantum technologies (QTs). For example, these detectors will provide infrared sensor technology for next generation driverless cars, to help create a viable quantum communication network and to interconnect super-fast quantum computers. 

The team, led by Heriot-Watt Professor Gerald Buller, secured funding from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).   The EPSRC Programme Grant entitled “Single-Photons – Expanding the Spectrum” or SPEXS provides £5.2M support over a five-year project.

This Programme Grant will significantly expand the operational region of single-photon detectors well beyond silicon’s 1 μm wavelength limit into the short-wave infrared (SWIR) and mid-wave infrared (MWIR) regions. By scaling up SWIR and MWIR semiconductor and superconductor single-photon detectors to focal plane arrays, we will produce revolutionary new time-resolved cameras which can be used, for example, to see though fog in automotive lidar scenarios, as well as allowing imaging and sensing in new applications in environmental monitoring, healthcare, and security and defence.

Professor Buller’s team brings together the leading UK researchers with impressive complementary expertise across this area: Prof Robert Hadfield and Professor Douglas Paul, University of Glasgow, Professor Chee Hing Tan and Professor Jo Shien Ng from the University of Sheffield and Professor Robert K Henderson, University of Edinburgh.  These researchers are the forefront of international developments and can draw on an impressive range of state-of-the-art facilities. The academic team are assisted by 17 of the UK’s top high technology companies who will act as industrial partners guiding the development of this revolutionary technology towards real world applications and products.

Professor Buller said: “The SPEXS Programme Grant will accelerate development of advanced optical sensor technology for a range of applications in advanced three-dimensional imaging, quantum communications and healthcare. We have combined the best UK University researchers, state-of-the-art technology and the UK’s industrial strengths to make a global impact. ”


Susan Kerr

Media Relations Officer


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