This paper describes the construction of a cryostat and an optical system with a free-space coupling efficiency of 56.5% +/- 3.4% to a superconducting nanowire single-photon detector (SNSPD) for infrared quantum communication and spectrum analysis. A 1K pot decreases the base temperature to T = 1.7 K from the 2.9 K reached by the cold head cooled by a pulse-tube cryocooler. The minimum spot size coupled to the detector chip was 6.6 +/- 0.11 μm starting from a fiber source at wavelength λ = 1.55 μm. We demonstrated efficient photon counting on a detector with an 8 x 7.3 μm^2 area. We measured a dark count rate of 95 +/- 3.35 kcps and a system detection efficiency of 1.64% +/- 0.13%. We explain the key steps that are required to further improve the coupling efficiency.

Francesco Bellei, Alyssa P. Cartwright, Adam N. McCaughan, Andrew E. Dane, Faraz Najafi, Quinyuan Zhao, and Karl K. Berggren. Free space-coupled superconducting nanowire single photon detectors for infrared optical communications. ArXiv151105786 Phys. (2015). at <>