Researchers at Rice University are using carbon nanotubes as the critical component of a robust terahertz polarizer that could accelerate the development of new security and communication devices, sensors and non-invasive medical imaging systems as well as fundamental studies of low-dimensional condensed matter systems.
The polarizer developed by the Rice lab of Junichiro Kono, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of physics and astronomy, is the most effective ever reported; it selectively allows 100 percent of a terahertz wave to pass or blocks 99.9 percent of it, depending on its polarization. The research was published in the online version of the American Chemical Society journal, Nano Letters.
The broadband polarizer handles waves from 0.5 to 2.2 terahertz, far surpassing the range of commercial polarizers that consist of fragile grids wrapped in gold or tungsten wires.
Kono said technologies that make use of the optical and electrical regions of the electromagnetic spectrum are mature and common, as in lasers and telescopes on one end and computers and microwaves on the other. But until recent years, the terahertz region in between was largely unexplored. "Over the past decade or two, people have been making impressive progress," he said, particularly in the development of such sources of radiation as the terahertz quantum cascade laser.
"We have pretty good terahertz emitters and detectors, but we need a way to manipulate light in this range," Kono said. "Our work is in this category, manipulating the polarization state -- the direction of the electric field -- of terahertz radiation."
Terahertz waves exist at the transition between infrared and microwaves and have unique qualities. They are not harmful and penetrate fabric, wood, plastic and even clouds, but not metal or water. In combination with spectroscopy, they can be used to read what Kono called "spectral fingerprints in the terahertz range"; he said they would, for instance, be useful in a security setting to identify the chemical signatures of specific explosives.
The work by Kono and lead author Lei Ren, who recently earned his doctorate at Rice, makes great use of the basic research into carbon nanotubes for which the university is famous. Co-authors Robert Hauge, a distinguished faculty fellow in chemistry, and his former graduate student Cary Pint developed a way to grow nanotube carpets and to transfer well-aligned arrays of nanotubes from a catalyst to any substrate they chose, limited only by the size of the growth platform.
While Hauge and Pint were developing their nanotube arrays, Kono and his team were thinking about terahertz. Four years ago, they came across a semiconducting material, indium antimonide, that would stop or pass terahertz waves, but only in a strong magnetic field and at very low temperatures.
At about the same time, Kono's lab began working with carbon nanotube arrays transferred onto a sapphire substrate by Pint and Hauge. Those aligned arrays -- think of a field of wheat run over by a steamroller -- turned out to be very effective at filtering terahertz waves, as Kono and his team reported in a 2009 paper.
"When the polarization of the terahertz wave was perpendicular to the nanotubes, there was absolutely no attenuation," Kono recalled. "But when the polarization was parallel to the nanotubes, the thickness was not enough to completely kill the transmission, which was still at 30-50 percent."
The answer was clear: Make the polarizer thicker. The current polarizer has three decks of aligned nanotubes on sapphire, enough to effectively absorb all of the incident terahertz radiation. "Our method is unique, and it's simple," he said.
Kono sees use for the device beyond spectroscopy by manipulating it with an electric field, but that will only become possible when all of the nanotubes in an array are of a semiconducting type. As they're made now, batches of nanotubes are a random mix of semiconductors and metallics; recent work by Erik Hároz, a graduate student in Kono's lab, detailed the reasons that nanotubes separated through ultracentrifugation have type-dependent colors. But finding a way to grow specific types of nanotubes is the focus of a great deal of research at Rice and elsewhere.
Co-authors are former Rice postdoctoral researcher Takashi Arikawa and research associate Iwao Kawayama and Professor Masayoshi Tonouchi of the Institute of Laser Engineering at Osaka University, Japan.
The Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation supported the research.
Read the abstract at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl203783qRelated links:
"Scientists solve mystery of colorful armchair nanotubes": http://stage.media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=16606&SnID=1904501430
Image for download:
CAPTION: A triple layer of carbon nanotube arrays on a sapphire base are the basis for a new type of terahertz polarizer invented at Rice University. The polarizer could lead to new security and communication devices, sensors and non-invasive medical imaging systems. (Credit: Lei Ren/Rice University)
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is known for its "unconventional wisdom." With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is less than 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 4 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to http://www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/Rice.pdf.
David Ruth | EurekAlert!
Deep Learning predicts hematopoietic stem cell development
21.02.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Sensors embedded in sports equipment could provide real-time analytics to your smartphone
16.02.2017 | University of Illinois College of Engineering
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
22.02.2017 | Life Sciences
22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy