23 February 2012 Superconducting nanowire arrays for multi-meter free-space optical communications receivers
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Reception of faint optical communications signals from deep space presumes multi-meter diameter optical receivers coupled to high detection efficiency photon counting detectors. Superconducting nanowire detectors presently offer the highest performance for photon starved optical communications at near-infrared optical communications wavelengths. Square-millimeter sized arrays are required due to atmospheric turbulence and the classical solid angle-area invariant of an optical system, but most development of superconducting nanowire detectors has been for small pixels and arrays of less than 0.001 square-millimeter area. One deep space receiver approach is to partition detector area across multiple receive apertures (multiple telescopes) to use these small detectors, but this carries performance and cost penalties compared to use of a single large aperture. At JPL we are pursuing the development of large superconducting nanowire arrays for free space coupling to multi-meter telescopes and have developed a facility for testing large area free-space coupled nanowire arrays and fabricated arrays up to 64 pixels in the NbTiN and W(1-x)Six material systems.
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William H. Farr, William H. Farr, Jeffrey A. Stern, Jeffrey A. Stern, Matthew D. Shaw, Matthew D. Shaw, "Superconducting nanowire arrays for multi-meter free-space optical communications receivers", Proc. SPIE 8246, Free-Space Laser Communication Technologies XXIV, 82460R (23 February 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.913317; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.913317

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