September 28, 2021

New Quantum Stopwatch With Ultrafast “Time Lens” Can Improve Imaging Technologies

Graphic showing how a time lens can distinguish between two photons arriving at a detector close together. Credit: Optica

Researchers at CU Boulder have designed one of the most precise stopwatches yet—not for timing Olympic sprinters and swimmers but for counting single photons, or the tiny packets of energy that make up light.

The team’s invention could lead to big improvements in a range of imaging technologies—from sensors that map out entire forests and mountain ranges to more detailed devices that can diagnose human diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. The group published its results this week in the journal Optica.

Bowen Li, lead author of the new study, said that the research focuses on a widely-applied technology called time-correlated single photon counting (TCSPC). It works a bit like the timers you see at the Olympics: Scientists first shine a laser light at a…

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