The implementation and commercialization of quantum cryptography technologies have to face some challenges related to the development of single-photon detectors operating at 1550 nm. The main requirements are: i) high detection efficiency; ii) low noise; iii) high count rate; iv) low timing jitter. Different technologies are currently available for single-photon detection at 1550 nm, but semiconductor devices (like Single-Photon Avalanche Diode, SPAD) offer a
photon detection efficiency that is inherently higher than any photocathode employed in vacuum tube detectors.
Additionally InGaAs/InP SPADs can detect single photons at 1550 nm with low noise when moderately cooled by
means of thermo-electric coolers. Consequently, InGaAs/InP SPAD can be the enabling technology of practical quantum key distribution (QKD) systems, provided that the maximum count rate is increased above 1 Mcps. The main limit is the afterpulsing effect that usually sets too long (< 10 μs) a hold-off time after each avalanche ignition.
We present the developments achieved in InGaAs/InP SPAD device design, fabrication technology and front-end
electronics, aimed at decreasing the afterpulsing effect, while not impairing photon detection efficiency and timing jitter. The new InGaAs/InP SPADs provide count rates higher than 1 Mcps and temporal response with 60 ps Full-Width at Half Maximum and very short (30 ps time constant) tail. The front-end electronics includes a wide-band pulse generator able to gate the SPAD up to 133 MHz repetition rate. Eventually, a fast avalanche-quenching scheme minimizes quenching time to less than 1 ns, thus effectively reducing afterpulsing by decreasing the total charge flowing through the junction.