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Researchers demo spectrometer sensors

31 Jan 2013

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Researchers from the University of Alabama have demonstrated a device that is capable of sensing and spectral measurement. This was a result of combining nanophotonics technology and traditional optical spectroscopy.

Dr. Junpeng Guo, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Optics at UAHuntsville, recently created a new nanoscale photonic device called a super nano-grating, with the assistance of his doctoral student, Haisheng Leong. With a fabricated super nano-grating, Dr. Guo's group demonstrated a new kind of optical sensing apparatus called spectrometer sensors.

Traditional optical spectrometers measure the spectra of light. Traditional optical sensors use light to detect the presence of chemicals. A spectrometer sensor is an optical spectrometer and also a chemical sensor because it measures the optical resonance spectrum that is controlled by chemicals bonded on the nanostructure surface. (See also Photonics breakthrough speeds up broadband.)

Spectrometer sensors

Dr. Junpeng Guo, UAHuntsville Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Optics, and doctoral student Haisheng Leong view the spectra from a new nanoscale photonic device.

Nano-gratings are periodic nanostructures with the feature size in the nanometre scale. One nanometre is one millionth of a millimeter, about 1/50,000th of the diameter of a human hair. Because the feature size of nanostructures is less than the wavelength of light, we are not able to see nanostructures with our eyes. However, light can sense nanostructures by strong absorptions at specific wavelengths. This phenomenon is called optical resonance of nanostructures, a fundamental phenomenon in optics. (See also Light synchronises nano-sized oscillators.)

Optical resonances of nanostructures typically are measured by using optical spectrometers. By creating a super-grating pattern of nanostructures, the UAHuntsville team made super diffraction gratings with nano-grating structures. With the super nano-grating, the resonance of the nanostructure can be measured with a photodetector array. That way, the use of an optical spectrometer is not needed.

Nanoscale photonics

The nanostructures, such as nanoholes or nanoslits, are made by using a tightly focused electron beam, a technique called electron-beam lithography. Nanostructure patterns were first drawn with a computer and then sent to the electron-beam lithography machine to control the movement of the tightly focused electron beam to write nanoholes or any other nanostructure patterns in a thin layer of special polymer called e-beam resist. (See also IBM: Si nanophotonics now ready for commercialisation.)

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