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Photon Counters & Instrumentation for Optical SETI

The Heart of the Matter


In 2001, which marks 40 years of Optical SETI, ETI Photonics (The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory) hopes to be making available photon counters suitable for use with professional and amateur OSETI observatories at prices yet to be determined.  If you are a potential professional or amateur OSETI researcher and would like to purchase photon counter(s), photon counting instrumentation or complete photon counting turnkey systems for undertaking searches for pulsed ETI laser beacons in the visible and near-infrared spectrum, would you please express your interest by emailing me at: contact info.


Here is a list of links to companies manufacturing fast photon counters (PMT or solid-state) and fast photon counting instrumentation, both stand-alone and PC-based.  All prices are based on manufacturer's US list:


Hamamatsu - PMTs and Systems

Brief Specifications

Hamamatsu Photon Counters Huge range of PMT and Photon Counting systems.  Some selected devices:

R7400U PMTs (PDF)

H4721 Photon Counting Module (PDF)
H4721 Spectral Response (Excel)

Main Catalog (PDF)
Spectral Response Characteristics
Photon Counting



Electron-Tubes - PMTs and Systems

Brief Specifications

Electron Tubes Ltd Module Range of PMT and Photon Counting systems.

Note that Electron-Tubes was formerly Thorn-EMI.



Perkin-Elmer (formerly EG&G) - Solid-State Systems

Brief Specifications

Perkin-Elmer Single Photon Counter Module (SPCM) Pulse pair resolution = 30 ns.  Sub-nanosecond response time.  Dark count = 100 cps.

Basic Cost = $4,600

Technical Information (PDF)

Mechanical Drawing (PDF)

Spectral Response



ORTEC (formerly EG&G) - Multichannel Analyzer

Brief Specifications

ORTEC's Turbo MCS Minimum 5.0 ns dwell time.

Basic Instrument Cost = $7,335



Stanford Research Systems - Photon Counting Instrumentation

Brief Specifications

Stanford Research Systems SR400 Dual Gated Photon Counter Dual channel gated photon counter with 5.0 ns pulse pair resolution.

Basic Instrument Cost = $5,350



FAST ComTec - Photon Counting Instrumentation

Brief Specifications

FastComTec's P7886 0.5 GHz Time-of-Flight/Multiscaler 0.5 ns time resolution.
Basic Instrument Cost = $12,250

1.0 ns time-resolution.
Basic Instrument Cost = $9,750

Manual (PDF)

This may be the fastest and most expensive instrumentation available for pulsed-beacon OSETI.  This PCI card would have the capability to detect more than the attention-getting laser beacon signals.  It should also be capable of detecting and demodulating the conjectured wideband ETI channel when hooked up to a "great telescope".  US Distributor is Quantar Technology Inc.


GuideTech - Instrumentation

Brief Specifications

GuideTech's Femto-2000 Multi-Site Digital Time Scope (illustrative of their products only)




Revised: March 25, 2000

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Last modified:  10/28/06
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