University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Wednesday, October 21st 2009
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Kent, Irwin, NIST
Subject: Superconducting detectors: from nuclear non-proliferation to cosmology
Refreshments served in Room 216 Physics after colloquium

Superconductivity is a powerful tool for the detection of electromagnetic radiation over an extraordinary range of frequencies. The superconducting transition-edge sensor (TES), for example, is an extremely sensitive detector over more than twelve orders of magnitude in frequency, from microwaves through gamma rays. The TES uses a superconducting film biased in the superconducting transition as a sensing element. TES arrays have evolved beyond the research and development phase, and they are providing improved sensitivity in applications as diverse as nuclear non-proliferation and forensics, nuclear and particle physics, and cosmology. These arrays are instrumented by superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) amplifiers. I will discuss the development of these detectors, and highlight their use in nuclear non-proliferation and cosmology, where they are providing new capabilities for sensitive measurements of the elemental and isotopic composition of nuclear materials, and the power and polarization of the cosmic microwave background.

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