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29 September 2004 Future optical detectors based on Al superconducting tunnel junctions
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Superconducting tunnel junctions are being developed for application as photon detectors in astronomy. We present the latest results on the development of very high quality, very low critical temperature junctions, fabricated out of pure Al electrodes. The detectors are operated at 50 mK in an adiabatic demagnetisation refrigerator. The contacts to the top and base electrodes of these junctions are fabricated either out of Nb or Ta, which has strong implications on the loss time of the quasiparticles. The Nb contacted junctions show quasiparticle loss times varying between 5 and 80 μsec, depending on the device size. The bias range of the Nb-contacted junctions is limited to the range 0-100 μV, because of the set-in of strong non-equilibrium quasiparticle multiplication currents at higher bias voltages. The Ta-contacted junctions, on the other hand, show quasiparticle loss times in excess of 200 μsec. These long loss times lead to very strong quasiparticle multiplication, which prevents the stable biasing of the junctions even at very low bias voltages. Junction fabrication and characterisation are described, as well as the response of the detectors to monochromatic light with wavelengths varying from 250 to 1000 nm. The energy resolution of the detectors is discussed.
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Guy Brammertz, Peter Verhoeve, Didier Martin, Anthony Peacock, and Rob Venn "Future optical detectors based on Al superconducting tunnel junctions", Proc. SPIE 5499, Optical and Infrared Detectors for Astronomy, (29 September 2004);

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