New quantum sensor promises better imaging and cancer monitoring

Researchers at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) have developed a new quantum sensor that could mean a significant advancement in 3D imaging and monitoring for cancer patients.

The results of the research titled “Tapered InP nanowire arrays for efficient broadband high-speed single-photon detection,” were published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology this week.

The team has successfully developed this sensor which is based on semiconductor nanowires that can detect single light particles with high resolution and speed. The efficiency of this new sensor is also spectacular over a wide range from the ultraviolet to near-infrared. This sensor would be able to improve quantum communication and has improved sensing capabilities say the researchers.

Principal investigator Michael Reimer, Assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering's electrical and computer engineering department in a statement said, “A sensor needs to be very efficient at detecting light. In applications like quantum radar, surveillance, and night-time operation, very few particles of light return to the device. In these cases, you want to be able to detect every single photon coming in.” He explained that this new device that they have developed is fast and efficient enough to detect a single particle of light called the photon and within a few nanoseconds become ready and refreshed for the next signal. The team used tapered nanowires which can turn the photons into electric currents that can be detected after amplification. This technology could mean a significant development in long range high resolution 3D imaging, singlet oxygen particle detection, quantum communication said the researchers. These technologies are useful for dose monitoring in cancer treatment. “A broad range of industries and research fields will benefit from a quantum sensor with these capabilities,” said Reimer.

Reimer explained that the device can be further improved and its spectrum absorption with the use of different materials. He said, “This device uses Indium Phosphide (InP) nanowires. Changing the material to Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs), for example, can extend the bandwidth even further towards telecommunications wavelengths while maintaining performance.” He signed off saying, “It's state of the art now, with the potential for further enhancements.”

This research was funded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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