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Absolute calibration of a variable attenuator using few-photon pulses

TitleAbsolute calibration of a variable attenuator using few-photon pulses
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsZ. H. Levine, B. L. Glebov, A. L. Pintar, and A. L. Migdall
JournalOpt. Express
Date PublishedJun
KeywordsQuantum detectors, Radiometry

We demonstrate the ability to calibrate a variable optical attenuator directly at the few-photon level using a superconducting Transition Edge Sensor (TES). Because of the inherent linearity of photon-number resolving detection, no external calibrations are required, even for the energy of the laser pulses, which ranged from means of 0.15 to 18 photons per pulse at the detector. To verify this method, calibrations were compared to an independent conventional calibration made at much higher photon fluxes using analog detectors. In all cases, the attenuations estimated by the two methods agree within their uncertainties. Our few-photon measurement determined attenuations using the Poisson-Influenced K-Means Algorithm (PIKA) to extract mean numbers of photons per pulse along with the uncertainties of these means. The robustness of the method is highlighted by the agreement of the two calibrations even in the presence of significant drifts in the optical power over the course of the experiment.