Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new nanotechnology-based “microlens” that uses gold to boost the strength of infrared imaging and could lead to a new generation of ultra-powerful satellite cameras and night-vision devices.
By leveraging the unique properties of nanoscale gold to “squeeze” light into tiny holes in the surface of the device, the researchers have doubled the detectivity of a quantum dot-based infrared detector. With some refinements, the researchers expect this new technology should be able to enhance detectivity by up to 20 times.
This study is the first in more than a decade to demonstrate success in enhancing the signal of an infrared detector without also increasing the noise, said project leader Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university’s Future Chips Constellation and Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center.
“Infrared detection is a big priority right now, as more effective infrared satellite imaging technology holds the potential to benefit everything from homeland security to monitoring climate change and deforestation,” said Lin, who in 2008 created the world’s darkest material as well as a coating for solar panels that absorbs 99.9 percent of light from nearly all angles.
“We have shown that you can use nanoscopic gold to focus the light entering an infrared detector, which in turn enhances the absorption of photons and also enhances the capacity of the embedded quantum dots to convert those photons into electrons. This kind of behavior has never been seen before,” he said.
Results of the study, titled “A Surface Plasmon Enhanced Infrared Photodetector Based on InAs Quantum Dots,” were published online recently by the journal Nano Letters. The paper also will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal’s print edition. The U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded this study. The paper is available online at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl100081j
The detectivity of an infrared photodetector is determined by how much signal it receives, divided by the noise it receives. The current state-of-the art in photodetectors is based on mercury-cadmium-telluride (MCT) technology, which has a strong signal but faces several challenges including long exposure times for low-signal imaging. Lin said his new study creates a roadmap for developing quantum dot infrared photodetectors (QDIP) that can outperform MCTs, and bridge the innovation gap that has stunted the progress of infrared technology over the past decade.
The surface plasmon QDIPs are long, flat structures with countless tiny holes on the surface. The solid surface of the structure that Lin built is covered with about 50 nanometers – or 50 billionths of a meter – of gold. Each hole is about 1.6 microns – or 1.6 millionths of a meter – in diameter, and 1 micron deep. The holes are filled with quantum dots, which are nanoscale crystals with unique optical and semiconductor properties.
The interesting properties of the QDIP’s gold surface help to focus incoming light directly into the microscale holes and effectively concentrate that light in the pool of quantum dots. This concentration strengthens the interaction between the trapped light and the quantum dots, and in turn strengthens the dots’ ability to convert those photons into electrons. The end result is that Lin’s device creates an electric field up to 400 percent stronger than the raw energy that enters the QDIP.
The effect is similar to what would result from covering each tiny hole on the QDIP with a lens, but without the extra weight, and minus the hassle and cost of installing and calibrating millions of microscopic lenses, Lin said.
Lin’s team also demonstrated in the journal paper that the nanoscale layer of gold on the QDIP does not add any noise or negatively impact the device’s response time. Lin plans to continue honing this new technology and use gold to boost the QDIP’s detectivity, by both widening the diameter of the surface holes and more effective placement of the quantum dots.
“I think that, within a few years, we will be able to create a gold-based QDIP device with a 20-fold enhancement in signal from what we have today,” Lin said. “It’s a very reasonable goal, and could open up a whole new range of applications from better night-vision goggles for soldiers to more accurate medical imaging devices.”
Co-authors of the paper are Rensselaer Senior Research Scientist James Bur, graduate student Chun-Chieh Chang, and Research Associate Yong-Sung Kim; Yagya D. Sharma, Rajeev V. Shenoi, and Sanjay Krishna of the Center for High Technology Materials at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; and Danhong Huang of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base.
For more information on Lin’s research, visit:http://www.rpi.edu/dept/phys/faculty/profiles/lin.html
Michael Mullaney | EurekAlert!
Fraunhofer FIT joins Facebook's Telecom Infra Project
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions
21.10.2016 | Stanford University
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences
27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences