Program Completed

Single Photon Counting Detectors
This program completed its study in 2010 and its technical development follow-on program in 2012.

Team Leads
Jonas Zmuidzinas
Paul Goldsmith

This study was designed to significantly advance the capability to build single photon counting array detectors at submillimeter to ultraviolet wavelengths for astronomy, including optical single photon detectors for communications. The ability to count single photons offers the ultimate sensitivity for imaging and spectroscopic astronomical instruments. This sensitivity is required to achieve astronomical background limited sensitivity in the submillimeter-far infrared wavelength range which will surely be exploited in follow-on missions to Spitzer and Herschel, as well as to GALEX at ultraviolet wavelengths. Single photon counting detection offers the potential for energy resolving arrays that can carry out low-resolution spectroscopic imaging without the complexity or loss from wavelength-selective devices. This capability is required for the highest performance coronagraphs envisioned for future exoplanet detection missions.

Single photon detectors are essential to optimize high bandwidth optical communication links to distant spacecraft whose data rates will themselves be growing rapidly. The initial phase of this study examined a number of single photon detection concepts at different stages of development.

For questions contact: Jonas Zmuidzinas or Michele Judd


Jonas Zmuidzinas

Study Co-Lead Jonas Zmuidzinas from Caltech.

Paul Goldsmith

Study Co-Lead Paul Goldsmith from JPL.