Spectroscopy and imaging for quantum photonics with ultrasensitive detection

Solicitation number EN578-20ISC3/77

Publication date

Closing date and time 2023/10/18 14:00 EDT

Last amendment date


    *Please note the ISC Website will be available on September 6, 2023 at 10:30 EDT

    *AMENDMENT 004 - An attachment has been added. The document contains questions and answers related to the Challenge.*

    *AMENDMENT 003 - An attachment has been added. The document contains questions and answers related to the Challenge.*

    *AMENDMENT 002 - An attachment has been added. This amendment is raised to correct the numerical formatting.*

    *AMENDMENT 001 - An attachment has been added. The document contains questions and answers related to the Challenge.*

    This Challenge Notice is issued under the Innovative Solutions Canada Program (ISC) Call for Proposals 003 (EN578-20ISC3). For general ISC information, Bidders can visit the ISC website: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/101.nsf/eng/home
    Please refer to the Solicitation Documents (https://canadabuys.canada.ca/en/tender-opportunities/tender-notice/pw-2…) which contain the process for submitting a proposal.

    Steps to apply:
    Step 1: read this challenge
    Step 2: read the Call for Proposals : https://canadabuys.canada.ca/en/tender-opportunities/tender-notice/pw-2…
    Step 3: propose your solution here : https://ised-isde.canada.ca/site/innovative-solutions-canada/en/spectro…

    Challenge title: Spectroscopy and imaging for quantum photonics with ultrasensitive detection
    Challenge sponsor: Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)

    Maximum contract value and travel tab:

    Multiple contracts could result from this challenge.
    Phase 1:
    • The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 contract resulting from this Challenge is : $150,000.00 CAD
    • The maximum duration for any Phase 1 project funded by a contract resulting from this Challenge is up to 6 months
    • Estimated number of Phase 1 contract to be awarded: TBD

    Phase 2:
    • The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 contract resulting from this Challenge is : $1,000,000.00 CAD
    • The maximum duration for any Phase 2 project funded by a contract resulting from this Challenge is up to 24 months
    • Estimated number of Phase 2 contracts to be awarded: To be determined

    This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any contract for the total approximate funding. Final decisions on the number of Phase 1 and Phase 2 awards will be made by Canada on the basis of factors such as evaluation results, departmental priorities and availability of funds.


    No travel is anticipated. The kick-off meeting and final review meeting will have the flexibility of being by telephone or videoconference.

    Kick-off meeting
    Kick-off meeting will be conducted via video conferencing.

    Progress review meeting(s)
    Any progress review meetings will be conducted by videoconference.

    Final review meeting
    Final meeting will be conducted via video conferencing.

    Challenge Statement Summary
    Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) is seeking solutions that will enable imaging spectroscopy of low power optical signals for part, or all, of the range 400nm-1800nm.

    Problem statement
    Quantum-level spectroscopy is a key challenge for quantum technology development. The ability to measure source spectra with high sensitivity allows the identification of unwanted sources of light. Spectrometers equipped with array detectors allow parallel spectrum acquisition and the formation of images using quantum sources of light. ISED requires ultrasensitive spectrometers across a range of wavelengths from the visible to short-wave-infrared (SWIR) spectral regions. The challenges to achieve a high signal-to-noise ratio when measuring a given source vary widely across these regions, due to factors including variations in quantum efficiency, electronic noise, pixel size, and scene noise. We are looking for pioneers to drive new hardware and processing innovations that improve the signal-to-noise ratio in spectrometers for quantum technology applications.

    Desired outcomes and considerations

    Essential (mandatory) outcomes
    The proposed solution must:
    • The spectrometer detector quantum efficiency must exceed 60% for a continuous wavelength interval of 400nm within the operating range (400nm-1800nm)
    • Be equipped with an array detector with at least 200 pixels in one dimension, a pitch of less than 30um, and an effective pixel fill factor greater than 10%.
    • The spectrometer system must include software and computer hardware for data acquisition and display
    • The spectrometer software must include a function, library, or routine for live exporting of data to third party software (for example, MATLAB or Python)
    • The spectrometer software must be available for installation on at least eight (8) separate computers
    • The spectrometer must obtain a resolution less than 20cm-1 for parallel spectrum acquisition over a spectral range greater than 1000cm-1
    • The spectrometer must be equipped with fibre adapter(s) for direct FC- and SMA-connections
    Additional outcomes
    • The spectrometer detector should be compatible with industry standard C-mount brackets.
    • The spectrometer should have at a transmission efficiency of at least 40% from the input port to the focal plane array
    • The spectrometer should enable automated switching between distinct modes of: (a) lower resolution (resolution less than 40cm-1) with high spectral range (range>1000cm-1); and, (b) high resolution (resolution less than 4cm-1) with reduced spectral range (range>200cm-1)
    • The spectrometer should be able to achieve a maximum spectral resolution of less than 2cm-
    • The spectrometer should permit free-space imaging on to the input port
    • The centre wavelength of the measurement region should be continuously tunable by computer control
    • The spectrometer should be accompanied by an optical source suitable for wavelength calibration and a routine for calibration
    • The spectrometer software should include live plotting of spectrum data with calibrated wavelength display
    • The spectrometer detector should be separable from the spectrometer so that the detector can be used as an imaging device
    • The system should be designed to minimize the impact of thermal background noise, including any necessary shielding
    • The spectrometer detector should achieve a pixel operability of > 90% over the full array of pixels
    • For spectrometers operating within 900nm to 1800nm, the spectrometer detector should have a total noise of less than 100 electrons per pixel for an integration time of 2 seconds when the field of view is at 77 Kelvin
    • For spectrometers operating within 400nm to 900nm, the detector should have a total noise of less than 8 electrons per pixel for an integration time of 2 seconds when the field of view is at 77 Kelvin
    • The spectrometer specification should represent a significant improvement over the state of the art for a comparable device in at least one of the following performance characteristics: the signal-to-noise performance for an applicant-chosen scenario; the quantum efficiency; the detector speed; the detector recovery time; the number of detector noise counts; and/or the ability to operate without cryogenic cooling
    • The spectrometer detector should demonstrate an improvement in the signal-to-noise performance over the state of the art for a measurement that would currently be limited by detection noise (this includes electronic noise, dark noise, and ambient scene noise)
    • The spectrometer detector should have an effective fill factor greater than 70%.

    Background and context
    The Canadian government has identified quantum technology as one of the major growth opportunities for research, development, and industry in the coming years. In 2017, McKinsey and Co. ranked Canada 5th globally in total annual expenditures on quantum science ($100M Euros) and 1st among G7 nations in per-capita spending on quantum research.

    In tune with the development strategies of other leading nations, Canada’s government departments and granting organizations are driving research excellence and commercialization with strategic investments. For example, Canada and the UK have established a partnership to accelerate the commercialization of quantum technologies.

    Recognizing their likely role as early adopters of quantum technology, CSE, CSA, and DRDC are also investing in multiple areas. Photonic quantum technology is one of the promising approaches to quantum communication, quantum sensing, and quantum computation. The technology relies on efficient, high-rate, and precise photon generation, modulation, and detection.

    NRC develops a wide variety of quantum photonic technologies including photon sources, transduction devices, switches, and memories. These quantum devices involve the creation and manipulation of weak optical pulses across a wide range of wavelengths, from the visible to short-wave infrared (400-2500nm). Often, these devices also create sources of noise that diminish or eliminate their potential usefulness. Ultrasensitive imaging and spectroscopy devices are key in improving quantum devices, because they allow us to understand the spectra of signals and noise.

    Beyond spectroscopy, ultrasensitive imaging devices are powerful tools for quantum sensing. For example, devices with single photon detection capability allow the use of entangled photon pairs for quantum-enhanced imaging. A wide range of array detectors exist across the visible to short-wave infrared spectral region; a review is not undertaken here. However, electronic noise is a persistent problem in all detection technologies. This limits our ability to measure and characterize quantum sources of light.

    We are therefore seeking new and innovative array detectors and spectroscopy devices with reduced electronic noise and/or new functions to improve our measurement capabilities. Quantum photonics research is an active sector in Canada, and beyond. We therefore anticipate that new technologies arising from this challenge will be of interest to many potential customers.

    Contract duration

    The estimated contract period will be 12 month(s).

    Trade agreements

    • No trade agreements are applicable to this solicitation process

    Reason for limited tendering

    A contracting officer can use limited tendering for specific reasons outlined in the applicable trade agreements. The reason for this contract is described below:

    • Prototype Purchase

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    Contact information

    Contracting organization

    Group, PSPC

    10 Wellington

    Gatineau, QC, K1A 0S5
    Contracting authority
    (111) 111-1111

    10 Wellington

    Gatineau, QC, K1A 0S5
    Bidding details

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    Summary information

    Notice type
    Request for Proposal
    English, French
    Region(s) of delivery
    Region of opportunity
    Contract duration
    12 month(s)
    Procurement method
    Competitive – Selective Tendering
    Selection criteria
    Variations or combinations of the above methods

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