Quantum Sensors

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, time-resolved photoluminescence detection, atmospheric remote sensing, fault testing in integrated circuits, astronomy, fibre temperature sensing and quantum information science. 

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 core members of the QUANTIC quantum imaging hub, led by the University of Glasgow, which brings 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 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the European Research Council and Innovate UK.

Group members

Group members

Academic Staff

Research 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

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

Research projects

Waveguide SNSPDIntegrated quantum photonics

Contacts: Robert Hadfield, Robert Heath, Jharna PaulKleanthis Erotokritou

Main Collaboration: University of Bristol

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 integratearrays of detectors together onto complex waveguide circuits.  We are partners in two major UK projects focussing on this challenge, in collaboration with the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol and the QComm quantum technology hub.

‌‌Cosputtering in Plassys VISuperconducting detector materials

Contacts: Archan Banerjee, Dmitry Morozov, Gavin Orchin, Umberto Nasti

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.  


Miniature 4K coolerPractical infrared single photon detector systems

Contact: Robert Hadfield

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

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).

Fibre temperature sensorDistributed fibre temperature sensing

Contact: Robert Hadfield, Gregor Taylor, Andrea Pizzone

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 Casaburi, Umberto Nasti, Gregor Taylor

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

Collaborations: QUANTIC Quantum Technology Hub, UK National Physical Laboratory

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).

Selected publications

Selected publications

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

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)

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)

Singlet oxygen luminescence detection

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 arrays

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)

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)

Open positions

Open positions


PhD Opportunities

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 next application deadline for PhD scholarships in the School of Engineering is February 2018.

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 Royal Society University Research Fellowship, Royal Academy of Engineering, Marie Curie IEF).

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

Prizes and awards

  • 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)