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Supercomputing Encryption Security Science Technology

Simple Mod Turns Diodes Into Photon Counters 118

KentuckyFC writes "The standard way to detect single photons is to use an avalanche photodiode in which a single photon can trigger an avalanche of current. These devices have an important drawback, however. They cannot distinguish the arrival of a single photon from the simultaneous arrival of two or more. But a team of physicists in the UK has found a simple mod that turns avalanche photodiodes into photon counters. They say that in the first instants after the avalanche forms, its current is proportional to the number of photons that have struck. All you have to do is measure it at this early stage. That's like turning a Fiat 500 into a Ferrari. Photon counting is one of the enabling technologies behind optical quantum computing. A number of schemes are known in which it is necessary to count the arrival of 0, 1 or 2 photons at specific detectors (abstract). With such a cheap detector now available (as well as decent photon guns), we could see dramatic progress in this field in the coming months."
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Simple Mod Turns Diodes Into Photon Counters

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  • by __aarcfd8085 ( 1264808 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:39AM (#24099995)

    Something that hasn't been pointed out is how useful this will be in high energy physics. The basic way of measuring a lot of particles is to look for the photons emitted when they interact with materials.

    This should help reduce the cost of certain detectors. Especially for measuring neutrinos that can only be spotted by the cherenkov radiation they give off as they pass through massive detectors (look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherenkov_radiation [wikipedia.org])

  • Ferrari? Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@@@earthlink...net> on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @10:48AM (#24100159) Journal

    If you haven't quite seen the significance of this, imagine overclocking your calculator and matching the performance of a workstation. Or polishing up the 3 inch reflector in your attic and outclassing Hubble with your images.

    I'd say it's more like finding out your "workstation" is an overpriced, overcomplicated Rube Goldberg device that in reality has the same performance as a Razor scooter.

    Up to this point, photon counters were elaborate devices with scintillation media, anticoincidence detctors, veto logic, and complex timing and biasing requirements.

    Now you can just apply 9.8V and an instrumentation amp and a couple analog filter/comparator chains, and off you go counting.

  • Not Quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ruin20 ( 1242396 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2008 @11:24AM (#24100731)
    Although I agree with you on the aspect of quantum encryption, that's not the only application for this technology. Quantum computing [wikipedia.org] is a means to increase the maximum processor speed exponentially. [caltech.edu] (see the "The Potential and Power of Quantum Computing" for a good explanation on how)

    a lot of the applications for "security" actually is the defeat of cryptanalysis systems as these computers could crack keys in a reasonable amount of time. This would start to drive key length to very large values in order to keep data safe.

    Essentially the value in quantum computing is you can set up a logical relationship between all the qbits and then preform an operation on any number of them and they instantaneously effect the remaining qbits. This saves the computation time for preforming operations on all the other qbits. The question on making this feasible is can you make the read/write time for each of the qbits reasonable and the technology affordable to do so. This seems to be a huge step in the right direction for the latter.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein