PEACOQ: New Quantum Detector Could Help Quantum Computers Communicate
This close-up photograph shows a single Performance-Enhanced Array for Counting Optical Quanta (PEACOQ) detector. Smaller than a dime, a single detector consists of 32 niobium nitride superconducting nanowires on a silicon chip, which is attached to connectors that fan out like the plumage of the device's namesake. Each individual nanowire is about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair and the active detector (housed inside the green-black square at the bottom of the device) measures only 13 microns across.
Figure A shows a silicon wafer that has had 32 PEACOQ detectors printed onto it by the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The exquisitely sensitive PEACOQ detector is being developed at JPL to detect single photons – quantum particles of light – at an extremely high rate. Like counting individual droplets of water while being sprayed by a firehose, each PEACOQ detector can measure the precise time each photon hits the detector (to within 100 trillionths of a second) at a rate of 1.5 billion photons per second. No other detector has achieved that rate.
The detector could help form a global quantum communications network, facilitating the transfer of data between quantum computers that are separated by hundreds of miles. PEACOQ detectors could be located at ground-based terminals to receive photons encoded with quantum information transmitted from space "nodes" aboard satellites orbiting Earth.