Being able to control and measure electrons is a vital part of the modern world; it’s the basis of electronics after all. However, electrons also play an incredibly important part in measuring the world around us. By firing electrons at an object or capturing the electrons that escape from it we can learn an enormous amount of information about what the object is and what it’s made of. Electron microscopy is the most common example of this, but there are many more such as X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and Low Energy Electron Diffraction. These techniques are used globally not just by researchers but also by industries to develop, understand and test their products. Being able to accurately measure electrons and their energies makes this possible. In this way, improving how well we can measure electrons would play a role across a vast range of areas from creating new drugs to designing new cars.

My project is about developing a new method of measuring electrons using superconducting devices called Transition-Edge Sensors (TESs). TESs have been used by astronomers to measure the energy of individual photons from space with extremely high accuracy and are being developed for the search of dark matter. My goal is to use the sensitivity, accuracy, and measurement speed that TESs provide to make electron detectors which surpass what we can currently achieve. Unlike existing electron detectors, TESs measure the energy of particles using calorimetry; the heat produced when a particle is absorber by the detector changes the electrical resistance of the superconductor. By measuring the resistance change, we can determine the arrival time of individual particles and precisely how much energy they had. TESs haven’t been used for electrons before and so my current research is in designing, making and testing electron detecting TESs to see what role they could play in the future.

Kunal Patel

NanoDTC Student, c2018