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!
Single-photon detector can count to 4
18.12.2017 | Duke University
New epidemic management system combats monkeypox outbreak in Nigeria
15.12.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.
In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...
Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
18.12.2017 | Life Sciences
18.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2017 | Life Sciences