The many ways sensitive detectors of radiation and particles use superconductivity (and why)
Some of the most sensitive radiation and particle detectors rely on the unique attributes of superconductivity to achieve their exceptional performance. The broad classification “Superconducting Detectors” is generally understood in this community to include transition-edge sensors, nano-wire single-photon detectors, superconducting tunnel-junction devices (SIS and SNS), kinetic inductance devices, and magnetic-penetration-depth devices. These sub-groups, however, represent very different detection schemes. In this talk, I will present the overarching operating principles and unique detection schemes of these devices, as well as of other closely related detectors. My goal is to highlight the different roles that superconductivity can play in the design and optimization of sensitive detectors of particles and radiation. Although characteristics of superconductivity are exploited by these devices, some properties of superconductors can be obstacles that need to be overcome. There is no single reason to use superconducting sensors over other approaches, but there are many reasons the superconducting detectors I will describe will enable breakthroughs in fields from astrophysics to quantum communication.