Quantum Sensors

Prof Robert Hadfield

Our group specialises in materials and devices for the most demanding sensing applications. Our sensing technologies span the energy range 100 eV – to 0.001 eV, placing single-molecule detection, infrared single-photon detection and terahertz detection all within reach. 

Applications for these technologies encompass X-ray, single molecule detection, dark matter detection, time-resolved photoluminescence detection, atmospheric remote sensing, fault testing in integrated circuits, astronomy, fibre temperature sensing, quantum information science and optical neuromorphic computing.

Our core expertise is in superconducting materials and devices, but we are actively seeking new avenues for ultrasensitive detection. 

We draw upon the world class nanofabrication capability of the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre.  We aim to develop joint activities across the science and engineering research base at the University through the Quantum Technologies research theme.  We are members of the QUANTIC quantum imaging hub and the QComm quantum communcations hub which bring together academic and industry expertise across the UK.  

Our work is valued by partners across the UK and abroad.  Our work is currently supported by the UK Research and Innovation (EPSRC and STFC) and European Horizon 2020.

Group Members

Academic Staff

Research Fellows/Associates/Assistants

Postgraduate Students

Former Group Members

  • Dr John O'Connor (PhD Heriot-Watt University 2011) - Sellafield Ltd, UK
  • Dr Catherine Fitzpatrick (EngD Heriot-Watt University 2013) - Cambridge Consultants, UK
  • Dr Mike Tanner (Research Fellow Heriot-Watt University & U Glasgow 2009-2014) - PROTEUS Medical Optics IRC, Heriot-Watt University/University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Chandra Mouli Natarajan (PhD Heriot-Watt University 2011/SU2P Entrepreneurial Fellow Stanford 2012-14/ Research Fellow U Glasgow 2014-16)
  • Dr Jian Li (Research Fellow U Glasgow 2014-16) - Research Professor, National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), Changsha, China
  • Dr Robert Kirkwood (PhD U Glasgow 2017) - Postdoctoral Researcher, National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, UK
  • Dr Nathan Gemmell (PhD Heriot-Watt University 2014, Postdoc U Glasgow 2014-17) - Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Sussex, UK
  • Dr Andrea Pizzone (PhD University of Glasgow 2018) - Postdoctoral Researcher, IMEC, Belgium
  • Dr Luke Baker (PhD University of Glasgow 2018) - Postdoctoral Researcher, Aalto University, Finland, Microsoft Research UK
  • Dr Archan Banerjee (PhD University of Glasgow 2018) - Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Berkeley, USA
  • Dr Robert Heath (PhD University of Glasgow 2015) - Postdoctoral Researcher, Centre for Quantum Photonics, University of Bristol, UK
  • Dr Kleanthis Erotokritou (PhD University of Glasgow 2019) - Postdoctoral Researcher, The Cyprus Institute, Cyprus
  • Dr Jharna Paul (PDRA University of Glasgow 2017-2019) - Postdoctoral Researcher with Prof Martin Weides University of Glasgow
  • Dr Konstantinos Tsimvrakidis (PhD University of Glasgow 2020) - Postdoctoral Researcher, FORTH, Crete, Greece
  • Dr Umberto Nasti (PhD University of Glasgow 2020) - Postdoctoral Researcher, Heriot-Watt University, UK
  • Dr Gavin Orchin - Medical Physicist, NHS Scotland

Group addresses

  • Professor Hadfield's Office: Room 618 Rankine Building Level 6, Oakfield Avenue, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 330 4929
  • Group Office: 74 Oakfield Avenue, Room 204, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 330 3159.
  • Group Laboratories: Room 222b Rankine Building Level 2, Oakfield Avenue, Glasgow. Tel: 0141 330 8182;  Room 222c (Lab1)  Rankine Building Level 2 Oakfield Avenue, Glasgow.

Research Projects


‌‌Cosputtering in Plassys VISuperconducting detector materials

Contacts: Ciaran Lennon, Dmitry Morozov, Jon Collins

Main Facility: James Watt Nanofabrication Centre, University of Glasgow

We are exploring a range of superconducting materials for next generation superconducting single-photon detectors.  We utilize the state-of-the-art facilities of the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre at the University of Glasgow enabling high quality deposition of superconducting thin films over large wafer areas, via sputtering or atomic layer deposition.  In addition, with support from partners in Cambridge and Manchester, we are investigating the potential of emerging two dimensional superconducting materials.


Dark Matter Detection

Contacts: Robert Hadfield, Dmitry Morozov

Collaborators: DESY Germany, University of Cardiff UK, NIST USA

We are pleased to be part of the STFC project Quantum enhanced interferometry for new physics led by the University of Cardiff.  Our role is to install ultralow noise superconducting detectors in the ALPS II dark matter search experiment at DESY, Hamburg, Germany.


Optical Neuromorphic Computing

Contacts: Robert Hadfield, Weikang Zhang

Collaborators: ChipAI constortium

We are pleased to be part of the EU Horizon 2020 project ChipAI led by INL Portugal.  We are developing resontant tunnel diode photodetectors for optical neuromorphic computing applications.


Miniature 4K coolerPractical infrared single photon detector systems

Contact: Robert Hadfield, Bernard Cooper

Collaborations: QUANTIC Quantum Technology Hub, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, Chase Research Cryogenics

Advanced detectors based on superconducting materials have tremendous potential in applications such as infrared photon counting.  The requirement for low temperature operation has been a significant obstacle to the widespread use of such detectors.  We are experts in constructing practical systems based on closed-cycle refrigeration.  We can mount multiple fibre-coupled detectors inside a single refrigerator.  This has enabled us to employ superconducting detectors in a very wide range of applications.  We have also delivered full detector systems to scientific partners including the UK National Physical Laboratory, the University of Toronto, Canada, the University of Bristol, UK, the University of Sheffield, UK and ID Quantique SA, Switzerland.  Through the QUANTIC quantum technology hub, we have a developed miniaturized cryogenic platform for superconducting detectors in collaboration with  STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK (pictured: Dr Nathan Gemmell & Dr Matthew Hills).  We are now working with Chase Research Cryogenics, Sheffield, UK on next generation miniaturized cooling concepts.

Fibre temperature sensorDistributed fibre temperature sensing

Contact: Robert Hadfield, Gregor Taylor

Collaborations: National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA

In collaboration with the NIST, USA, we have recently demonstrated a new type of distributed fibre temperature sensor.  This sensor exploits the process of Raman scattering and infrared single photon detection to infer the temperature as a function of position along the optical fibre.  This technique could be extremely usefully for distributed temperature sensing in large scale structures and harsh environments.  We are exploring the potential of this technology in geothermal energy applications, in partnership with Professor Paul Younger at GU.  We aim to scale up this technique to kilometre distances, and carry out field trials in partnership with industry.

Graph cuvetteSinglet oxygen luminescence detection

Contact: Robert Hadfield, Konstantinos Tsmivrakidis

Collaborations: Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto, Canada; University of Pennsylvania, USA

This is an important medical application of infrared photon counting.  Photodynamic therapy is a promising method of cancer treatment, but determining the dose delivered is a serious clinical challenge.   By detecting singlet oxygen luminescence at 1270 nm wavelength using a superconducting nanowire, we provide a direct method of dosimetry.  In collaboration with our partners in North America, we are comparing this method to other dosimetry techniques for clinical applications.  We are exploring the potential for cellular imaging based on singlet oxygen luminescence.

SNSPD parallel arrayMid infrared photon counting arrays

Contacts: Robert Hadfield, Alessandro CasaburiGregor Taylor, Robert Graham

Collaborations: QUANTIC Quantum Technology Hub

Superconducting nanowires are a promising technology for infrared photon counting, with low dark counts and excellent timing resolution.  Current devices are typically 10 micrometres across, suitable for coupling with single-mode optical fibre.  Using state-of-the-art electron beam patterning at the University of Glasgow we aim to develop multipixel nanowire arrays covering much larger areas.  Using ultra narrow wires we aim to achieve enhanced mid infrared performance.  Through the QUANTIC quantum technology hub we will deploy these next generation devices in advanced imaging and sensing applications.

Ultrafast superconducting readout electronics 

Contacts: Robert HadfieldAlessandro Casaburi, Jon Collins, Koran Jackson, Calum Rose

Collaborations: QUANTIC Quantum Technology Hub, UK National Physical Laboratory, SeeQC

As superconducting detectors scale up to large areas and multipixel cameras, there is an urgent demand for new multiplexing and readout strategies.  This is a strong focus of our current efforts, enabled through a recent Innovate UK feasibility study in partnership with the UK National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and University College London.


SSLDSingle molecule detection

Contact: Alessandro Casaburi

Collaborations: CNR Naples, Italy, AIST Tskuba, Japan

Time of flight mass spectrometry is a powerful technique for analysis of chemical compounds.   Current detector technology has poor sensitivity to lighter molecules (in the keV range).  Superconducting stripline detectors offer improved performance and proof of principle demonstrations have been performed in partnership with the AIST Laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan.  We are currently developing superconducting stripline arrays with millimetre active areas (below: four stripline devices on a 3mm x 3mm chip).

Waveguide SNSPDIntegrated quantum photonics

Contacts: Robert Hadfield, Mahmoud Ahtaiba, Jharna Paul

Main Collaboration: University of Bristol, QComm quantum technology hub

The optical photon is an ideal quantum bit or qubit for the transfer and processing of quantum information.  Waveguide circuit technology offers an ideal platform for scalable optical quantum information processing.  Proof-of-principal demonstrations have already been carried out; the goal now is integrate arrays of detectors together onto complex waveguide circuits. 

Selected publications

Practical infrared single photon detector systems

Gemmell, N. R. et al. (2017) 'Miniaturized 4 K platform for infrared superconducting photon counting detectors' Supercodnuctor Science and Technology 30, 11LT01 (doi:10.1088/1361-6668/aa8ac7)

Natarajan, C. M. et al. (2012) 'Superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors: physics and applications' Superconductor Science and Technology, 25 (6). 063001. ISSN 0953-2048 (doi:10.1088/0953-2048/25/6/063001)

Singlet oxygen luminescence detection

Tsimvrakidis, K.Gemmell, N. R.Erotokritou, K.Miki, S.Yabuno, M.Yamashita, T.Terai, H. and Hadfield, R. H. (2019) Enhanced optics for time-resolved singlet oxygen luminescence detection. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics, 25(1), 7000107. (doi: 10.1109/JSTQE.2018.2836962)

Gemmell, N. R., McCarthy, A., Kim, M. M., Veilleux, I., Zhu, T. C., Buller, G. S., Wilson, B. C., and Hadfield, R. H. (2016) A compact fiber-optic probe-based singlet oxygen luminescence detection system. Journal of Biophotonics(doi:10.1002/jbio.201600078)

Gemmell NR et al (2013) 'Singlet oxygen luminescence detection with a fiber-coupled superconducting nanowire single-photon detector' Optics Express 21 (4) 5005 (Abstract)

Mid infrared photon counting 

Taylor GG et al (2019) 'Photon counting LIDAR at 2.3 micrometres wavelength with superconducting nanowires' Optics Express 27 (26) 38147 (doi:10.1364/OE.27.038147)

Prabhakar S et al (2020) 'Two-photon quantum interference and entanglement at 2.3 micrometres' Science Advances 6 (13) eaay5195 (doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aay5195)

Single molecule detection

Casaburi, A.Heath, R.M.Tanner, M.G., Cristiano, R., Ejrnaes, M., Nappi, C., and Hadfield, R. (2014) Parallel superconducting strip-line detectors: reset behaviour in the single-strip switch regime. Superconductor Science and Technology, 27(4), 044029. (doi:10.1088/0953-2048/27/4/044029)

Casaburi A. et al (2009) 'Subnanosecond time response of large-area superconducting stripline detectors for keV molecular ions' Applied Physics Letters 94 212502 (Abstract)

Superconducting materials for photodetection

Orchin, G.J. et al. (2019) Niobium diselenide superconducting photodetectors. Applied Physics Letters, 114(25), 251103. (doi: 10.1063/1.5097389)

Banerjee, A.Heath, R. M. Morozov, D. Hemakumara, D.Nasti, U.Thayne, I. and Hadfield, R. H. (2018) Optical properties of refractory metal based thin films. Optical Materials Express, 8(8), pp. 2072-2088. (doi: 10.1364/OME.8.002072)

Banerjee, A.Baker, L. J.Doye, A.Nord, M.Heath, R. M. Erotokritou, K.Bosworth, D.Barber, Z. H.MacLaren, I. and Hadfield, R. H. (2017) Characterisation of amorphous molybdenum silicide (MoSi) superconducting thin films and nanowires. Superconductor Science and Technology, 30(8), 084010. (doi: 10.1088/1361-6668/aa76d8)

Integrated quantum photonics

Sibson, P. et al. (2017) Chip-based quantum key distribution.Nature Communications, 8, 13984.(doi:10.1038/ncomms13984)

Li, J. et al. (2016) Nano-optical single-photon response mapping of waveguide integrated molybdenum silicide (MoSi) superconducting nanowires. Optics Express, 24(13), pp. 13931-13938. (doi:10.1364/OE.24.013931

Silverstone, J.W. et al. (2014) On-chip quantum interference between silicon photon-pair sources. Nature Photonics, 8(2), pp. 104-108. (doi:10.1038/nphoton.2013.339

Distributed fibre temperature sensing

Tanner, M.G et al. (2011) 'High-resolution single-mode fiber-optic distributed Raman sensor for absolute temperature measurement using superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors' Applied Physics Letters, 99 (20). p. 201110. ISSN 0003-6951 (doi:10.1063/1.3656702)

Open positions


PhD Opportunities

QuantIC Industrial PhD Studentship: Mid infrared photon counting with superconducting nanowires

This is an excellent PhD research opportunity, aligned with the UK National Quantum Technology Programme and sponsored by Single Quantum BV, The Netherlands

Closing date 23rd May 2021

We are happy to accept applications from talented and motivated young researchers who wish to join our team.  Candidates who wish to be considered for PhD research should send a CV and contact details for two referees to Professor Robert Hadfield (Email: robert.hadfield@glasgow.ac.uk) or Dr Alessandro Casaburi (Email: alessandro.casaburi@glasgow.ac.uk).

The usual closing date for scholarship applications is 31st January each year.   This year there is a second round of scholarships closing 31st May 2021

More details on PhD opportunities


Postdoctoral Fellowships

The Quantum Sensors group is an ideal location for ambitious early career researchers to develop their careers.  We are pleased to support well qualified candidates wishing to apply for research fellowships (for example, UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships, Royal Society University Research Fellowship, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowships).

Please contact  Professor Robert Hadfield (Email: robert.hadfield@glasgow.ac.uk) with a copy of your CV and summary of research interests.

Prizes and Awards

  • 2021 STEM for Britain Engineering Gold Medal (Bernard Cooper)
  • 2019 Institute of Physics James Joule Medal (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2019 Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2018 Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2018 Knut and Alice Wallenberg Visiting Professor KTH Stockholm, Sweden (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2016 Fellowship of the Optical Society of America (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2015 European Research Council Consolidator Grant (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2015 Fellowship of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2013 Brian Pippard Prize of the Institute of Physics Superconductivity Group (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2012 J&E Hall Gold Medal of the Institute of Refrigeration (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2012 Marie Curie Fellowship (Alessandro Casaburi)
  • 2012 Picoquant GmbH Scientific Image Prize (Michael Tanner)
  • 2011 SU2P Science Bridges Entrepreneurial Fellowship (Chandra Mouli Natarajan)
  • 2010 Fellowship of the Institute of Physics (Robert Hadfield)
  • 2007 Royal Society University Research Fellowship (Robert Hadfield)