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ALPhA’s Single Photon Detector Initiative

What is the Single Photon Detector Initiative?

ALPhA members may purchase single photon detector's by Excelitas directly from ALPhA. ALPhA has already purchased eight rounds of detectors so far allowing 15 institutions to each receive 4 detectors (for a total of 60 detectors) every round. If you would like to purchase detectors in the 9th round, please click the button to sign up for the Waitlist. See below for more details!

Photo of the Single Photon Detector produced for ALPhA


Single photon detectors (shown above) are often used in the quantum mechanics or modern physics laboratory in many different experiments:  demonstrating the existence of photons, demonstrating single-photon interference, indistinguishability, or the quantum eraser, demonstrating entanglement, or testing Bell’s inequalities, etc. These labs have been featured highlights of BFY (Beyond the First Year Lab) conferences and have been incorporated into the highly successful ALPhA Laboratory Immersion program, which provides hands-on training for lab instructors.

ALPhA, in its role as advocate for instructional advanced physics laboratories, has arranged for the production and sale of single photon detectors at a cost significantly lower than for comparable research-quality detectors. This came about after it was determined that the high cost of the single photon detectors was the single largest expense incurred in setting up the single photon detection experiments that are emerging as a most exciting class of undergraduate advanced physics lab experiments. These detectors are being made available through ALPhA as a joint project between ALPhA, the AAPT, and Excelitas Corporation (formerly part of Perkin-Elmer). The detectors have specifications more than sufficient for the performance of the undergraduate laboratory experiments for which they are aimed, albiet slightly reduced compared with the industry standard detectors.Our efforts are having a huge impact on the number of students who will have access to this key, new generation of instructional labs.

The manufacturer, Excelitas, has put forth two conditions: (1) To ensure that these units are sold for instructional labs, each purchaser must be a member of ALPhA. The detectors carry labels specifying that these units belong in the undergraduate instructional labs and not in research labs. These educational detectors have reduced specs, notably a higher background dark count rate, compared to other models from the company. (2) Secondly, the manufacturer will not accept individual orders. ALPhA is to accept individual orders, and coordinate these into single group orders (15 institutions each ordering a set of four detectors).

Please note that ALPhA is only an intermediary for the purchase and assumes no liability or responsibilities with respect to these detectors; the manufacture, service, and warranty are provided by and the responsibility of Excelitas Corporation.


When will the 9th round of detectors be available?

The 8th round of detectors sold out in March 2018. In the past, we have averaged 1.5 years between rounds, meaning that the next detectors will probably be available in September 2019. Excelitas in February 2019 said that we were *months* away from collecting the 60 detectors needed to begin the 9th round.

While our single photon detector initiative provides detectors at a reduced price, the downside to this is that we are at the mercy of Excelitas for when the detectors are ready (this takes years) and at the mercy of the AAPT for purchasing them (months to buy and ship). We suggest a direct purchase from Excelitas if you need detectors in a particular time frame.

*UPDATE* AAPT ordered the detectors, they arrived mid-December, and we began shipping them in mid-January after holiday closures of the mail room. Almost all of the detectors have been shipped. We will update this page when the 9th round is closed.

How much do the detectors cost?

If you would like to get our best estimate of pricing information, sign up for the Single Photon Detector waitlist. To sign up for this waitlist you must be a member of ALPhA. The instructions for the waitlist will contain our current price estimate.

How do I purchase detectors? What is the process?

1) Click on the blue button below to sign up to be on the waitlist for the next round of detectors. You must be an ALPhA member to sign up. When the next round of detectors is available, we will begin contacting people on the waitlist in the order in which they signed up.

2) Contact Registrants - ALPhA will send the members at the top of the waitlist an email that will contain a link to an order form. Every 5 days we will contact more members on the waitlist. 

3) Order Detectors - On this order form ALPhA members will select the number of detectors they would like to purchase, fill out their contact information, select their payment type (check, credit card, ACH transfer, wire transfer), and select their shipping. All orders (domestic and international) will be charged a processing fee that will cover domestic shipping. International orders will have to arrange and pay for international shipping. Members who pay by credit card will have a 2.8% interest added to their payment.

3) Send in PO/payment information - Once members receive their order confirmation email, they will have one week to send the PO/payment information. After that one week, we will not hold the member's place in line. In addition, we cannot provide anything other than an order confirmation. If you require additional information to send the PO/payment information, then we suggest you buy single photon detectors directly from Excelitas. We are not set up to handle any additional requests.

4) Ship Detectors - Once we have the PO (and shipping information for international orders), we will ship the detectors.

5) Shipping confirmation - Once the detectors have been shipped, members will receive two emails. One will be an invoice and one will be a shipping confirmation with your shipping information and tracking number.

6) Payment - After shipping, members have 30 days to pay for the detectors.

If I have questions, what should I do?

Email the ALPhA webmaster with your questions. The ALPhA webmaster is in charge of logistics for the initiative.



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