Superconducting hot-electron bolometer: from the discovery of hot-electron phenomena to practical applications
The discovery of hot-electron phenomena in a thin superconducting film in the last century was followed by numerous experimental studies of its appearance in different materials aiming for a better understanding of the phenomena and consequent implementation of terahertz detection systems for practical applications. In contrast to the competitors such as superconductor-insulator-superconductor tunnel junctions and Schottky diodes, the hot electron bolometer (HEB) did not demonstrate any frequency limitation of the detection mechanism. The latter, in conjunction with a decent performance, rapidly made the HEB mixer the most attractive candidate for heterodyne observations at frequencies above 1 THz. The successful operation of practical instruments (the Heinrich Hertz Telescope, the Receiver Lab Telescope, APEX, SOFIA, Hershel) ensures the importance of the HEB technology despite the lack of rigorous theoretical routine for predicting the performance. In this review, we provide a summary of experimental and theoretical studies devoted to understanding the HEB physics, and an overview of various fabrication routes and materials.