Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


IRIS Report Summary

Project ID: 648604
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IRIS (Infrared imaging and sensing: the single-photon frontier)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Infrared imaging and sensing: the single-photon frontier (IRIS)


Infrared sensing technology has a central role to play in addressing 21st century global challenges in healthcare, security and environmental sensing. Promising new applications hinge on the ability to detect individual quanta of light: single photons. At infrared wavelengths this is a formidable task due to the low photon energy, and commercial-off-the-shelf technologies fall far short of the required performance. IRIS will engineer revolutionary photon counting infrared imaging and sensing solutions, with unprecedented spectral range, efficiency, timing resolution and low noise. Using state-of-the-art materials and nanofabrication techniques, novel superconducting detector technology will be scaled up from single pixels to large area photon counting arrays. Efficient readout and optical coupling solutions will be developed and implemented. IRIS will exploit space age cryogenic technology to create compact and mobile detector systems. IRIS will deploy these systems for the first time in revolutionary infrared imaging and sensing applications: dosimetry for laser based cancer treatment, atmospheric remote sensing of greenhouse gases and real-time distributed fibre sensing for geothermal energy.


The objectives of IRIS are as follows:
1. To develop high performance near- to mid-infrared photon counting detectors, exploiting the remarkable materials properties of nanostructured superconductors.
2. To engineer practical and compact cryogenic detector systems.
3. To deploy these next generation detector systems in revolutionary imaging and sensing applications in the domains of healthcare, remote sensing and geothermal energy.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

IRIS is led by Professor Robert Hadfield (RHH) who is a recognised international leader in this field. The project is hosted by the School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow, UK.

In the first 18 months of IRIS good progress has been made. The status of the effort on the three work packages is as follows:
Work package 1 CLASS device development. Fabrication and testing of next generation superconducting nanowire arrays has begun, led by RHH and supported by the staff of the JWNC cleanroom. A PhD student Umberto Nasti was recruited and began in 11/2015. He has been trained in superconducting device fabrication and testing. He is now working on CLASS device development. In tandem with the conventional superconducting materials effort in Glasgow, we are exploring the potential of two dimensional superconducting materials (related to graphene) with collaborators in Cambridge and Manchester, UK.

Work package 2 Cryogenic Systems. RHH is in close contact with Dr Martin Crook at RAL/STFC completing a QuantIC UK Quantum Technology hub project on miniaturized cryogenics, which is complementary to the goals of IRIS. This led to a fully operational demonstrator miniature 4 K cryostat with working superconducting detector inside being unveiled at the National UK Quantum Technology Showcase on 3rd November 2016. This result means that a key milestone has in effect been achieved ahead of schedule. To follow up on this success, the main effort by Dr Crook and his team in IRIS has been rescheduled to begin in the second 18 month period. This will focus on redesign of bespoke cryostat parts for massed manufacture.

Work package 3 RHH and his team are working on a range of advanced IR photon counting applications. Imaging and remote sensing applications are being pursued in tandem with the QuantIC quantum technology hub, led by the University of Glasgow (recent results published in the OSA flagship journal Optica). A visit to Toronto took place in summer/autumn 2015 to carry out singlet oxygen luminescence detection experiments (leading to two publications in J. Biophotonics and Cancers). RHH has now set up dedicated labs for singlet oxygen spectroscopy and fibre optic temperature sensing in Glasgow. A PhD student Konstantinos Tsimvrakidis joined RHH in 5/16 to work on this project.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The effort in Workpackage 1 has enabled a supply chain for superconducting detector technologies to be established at the University of Glasgow. Thin film deposition and electron beam based nanofabrication has been advanced in the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre. These processes may be offered commercially in future by the University of Glasgow spin-out company Kelvin Nanotechnology. Through the UK Quantum Technologies Programme follow-on projects have been initiated with the UK National Physical Laboratory (superconducting readout electronics), QMC Instruments (superconducting thin films for terahertz detection) and Chromacity Ltd (mid infrared test of superconducting detectors).

The effort in Workpackage 2 in partnership with STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory has been accelerated through linkage with the QUANTIC quantum technology hub in quantum enhanced imaging. The miniaturized 4 K cooler for superconducting detectors was unveiled at the UK Quantum Technologies Showcase in London in November 2015. This was recognised as a technical tour de force and created considerable excitement amongst politicians, funders and industry partners at the Showcase. In the next period of IRIS we aim to redesign key parts of the miniature cooler for massed production. Discussions are currently underway with a UK manufacturer (Honeywell Hymatic) to adopt this as a commercial product.

The effort in Workpackage 3 has focussed on imaging and sensing applications. The project is boosted by close linkage with QUANTIC, the UK quantum technology hub in quantum enhanced imaging. Key additional highlights within this period are a joint demonstration of singlet oxygen luminescence dosimetry for laser cancer treatment (in collaboration with Toronto Canada and U Penn USA) and establishment of a laboratory fibre optic temperature sensor testbed for geothermal energy applications (in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Glasgow).

In terms of impact on the field of Applied Superconductivity, it is worth mentioning that RHH has led and won a bid to host a major international conference in Glasgow, the 2019 European Applied Superconductivity Conference (EUCAS 2019). RHH will co-chair the conference with Dr John Durrell at the University of Cambridge. This conference will take place at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in the centre of Glasgow with >1,000 delegates, outreach in conjunction with Glasgow Science Centre and a major Industry Exhibition.
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