Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Princeton engineers make breakthrough in ultra-sensitive sensor technology

22.03.2011
Princeton researchers have invented an extremely sensitive sensor that opens up new ways to detect a wide range of substances, from tell-tale signs of cancer to hidden explosives.

The sensor, which is the most sensitive of its kind to date, relies on a completely new architecture and fabrication technique developed by the Princeton researchers. The device boosts faint signals generated by the scattering of laser light from a material placed on it, allowing the identification of various substances based on the color of light they reflect. The sample could be as small as a single molecule.

The technology is a major advance in a decades-long search to identify materials using Raman scattering, a phenomena discovered in the 1920s by an Indian physicist, Chandrasekhara Raman, where light reflecting off an object carries a signature of its molecular composition and structure.

"Raman scattering has enormous potential in biological and chemical sensing, and could have many applications in industry, medicine, the military and other fields," said Stephen Y. Chou, the professor of electrical engineering who led the research team. "But current Raman sensors are so weak that their use has been very limited outside of research. We've developed a way to significantly enhance the signal over the entire sensor and that could change the landscape of how Raman scattering can be used."

Chou and his collaborators, electrical engineering graduate students, Wen-Di Li and Fei Ding, and post-doctoral fellow, Jonathan Hu, published a paper on their innovation in February in the journal Optics Express. The research was funded by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

In Raman scattering, a beam of pure one-color light is focused on a target, but the reflected light from the object contains two extra colors of light. The frequency of these extra colors are unique to the molecular make-up of the substance, providing a potentially powerful method to determine the identity of the substance, analogous to the way a finger print or DNA signature helps identify a person.

Since Raman first discovered the phenomena – a breakthrough that earned him Nobel Prize – engineers have dreamed of using it in everyday devices to identify the molecular composition and structures of substances, but for many materials the strength of the extra colors of reflected light was too weak to be seen even with the most sophisticated laboratory equipment.

Researchers discovered in the 1970s that the Raman signals were much stronger if the substance to be identified is placed on a rough metal surface or tiny particles of gold or silver. The technique, known as surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), showed great promise, but even after four decades of research has proven difficult to put to practical use. The strong signals appeared only at a few random points on the sensor surface, making it difficult to predict where to measure the signal and resulting in a weak overall signal for such a sensor.

Abandoning the previous methods for designing and manufacturing the sensors, Chou and his colleagues developed a completely new SERS architecture: a chip studded with uniform rows of tiny pillars made of metals and insulators.

One secret of the Chou team's design is that their pillar arrays are fundamentally different from those explored by other researchers. Their structure has two key components: a cavity formed by metal on the top and at the base of each pillar; and metal particles of about 20 nanometers in diameter, known as plasmonic nanodots, on the pillar wall, with small gaps of about 2 nanometers between the metal components.

The small particles and gaps significantly boost the Raman signal. The cavities serve as antennae, trapping light from the laser so it passes the plasmonic nanodots multiple times to generate the Raman signal rather than only once. The cavities also enhance the outgoing Raman signal.

The Chou's team named their new sensor "disk-coupled dots-on-pillar antenna-array" or D2PA, for short.

So far, the chip is a billion times (109) more sensitive than was possible without SERS boosting of Raman signals and the sensor is uniformly sensitive, making it more reliable for use in sensing devices. Such sensitivity is several orders of magnitude higher than the previously reported.

Already, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are experimenting with a less sensitive chip to explore whether the military could use the technology pioneered at Princeton for detecting chemicals, biological agents and explosives.

In addition to being far more sensitive than its predecessors, the Princeton chip can be manufactured inexpensively at large sizes and in large quantities. This is due to the easy-to-build nature of the sensor and a new combination of two powerful nanofabrication technologies: nanoimprint, a method that allows tiny structures to be produced in cookie-cutter fashion; and self-assembly, a technique where tiny particles form on their own. Chou's team has produced these sensors on 4-inch wafers (the basis of electronic chips) and can scale the fabrication to much larger wafer size.

"This is a very powerful method to identify molecules," Chou said. "The combination of a sensor that enhances signals far beyond what was previously possible, that's uniform in its sensitivity and that's easy to mass produce could change the landscape of sensor technology and what's possible with sensing."

Chris Emery | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.princeton.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Stretchable biofuel cells extract energy from sweat to power wearable devices
22.08.2017 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Laser sensor LAH-G1 - optical distance sensors with measurement value display
15.08.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>