Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Catching the lightwave: Nano-mechanical sensors 'wired' by photonics

28.04.2009
As researchers push towards detection of single molecules, single electron spins and the smallest amounts of mass and movement, Yale researchers have demonstrated silicon-based nanocantilevers, smaller than the wavelength of light, that operate on photonic principles eliminating the need for electric transducers and expensive laser setups.

The work reported in an April 26 advance online publication of Nature Nanotechnology ushers in a new generation of tools for ultra-sensitive measurements at the atomic level.

In nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), cantilevers are the most fundamental mechanical sensors. These tiny structures — fixed at one end and free at the other — act like nano-scale diving boards that "bend" when molecules "jump" on them and register a change that can be measured and calibrated. This paper demonstrates how NEMS can be improved by using integrated photonics to sense the cantilever motion.

"The system we developed is the most sensitive available that works at room temperature. Previously this level of sensitivity could only be achieved at extreme low temperatures" said senior author Hong Tang, assistant professor of electrical and mechanical engineering in the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Their system can detect as little deflection in the nano-cantilever sensors as 0.0001 Angstroms — one ten thousandth of the size of an atom

To detect this tiny motion, the Yale team devised a photonic structure to guide the light wave through a cantilever. After exiting from the free end of the cantilever, the light tunnels through a nanometer gap and is collected on chip. "Detecting the lightwave after this evanescent tunneling," says Tang, "gives the unprecedented sensitivity."

Tang's paper also details the construction of a sensor multiplex — a parallel array of 10 nano-cantilevers integrated on a single photonic wire. Each cantilever is a different length, like a key on a xylophone, so when one is displaced it registers its own distinctive "tone."

"A multiplex format lets us make more complex measurements of patterns simultaneously — like a tune with chords instead of single notes," said postdoctoral fellow Mo Li, the lead author of the paper.

At the heart of this breakthrough is the novel way Tang's group "wired" the sensors with light. Their technique is not limited by the bandwidth constraints of electrical methods or the diffraction limits of light sources.

"We don't need a laser to operate these devices," said Wolfram Pernice, a co-author of the paper. "Very cheap LEDs will suffice." Futhermore, the LED light sources — like the million LED pixels that make up a laptop computer screen — can be scaled in size to integrate into a nanophotonic-chip — an important feature for this application.

"This development reinforces the practicality of the new field of nanooptomechanics," says Tang, "and points to a future of compact, robust and scalable systems with high sensitivity that will find a wide range of future applications — from chemical and biological sensing to optical signal processing."

Funding for the research was from a Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering seed grant, a National Science Foundation career award, and the Alexander-von-Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship programs.

Citation: Nature Nanotechnology: Advance Online Publication April 26, 2009
doi = 10.1038/NNANO.2009.92
Hong Tang http://www.seas.yale.edu/faculty-detail.php?id=114 or http://www.eng.yale.edu/tanglab/
electrical http://www.seas.yale.edu/departments-electrical.php
Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences http://www.seas.yale.edu/home.php
mechanical engineering http://www.seas.yale.edu/departments-mechanical.php
Mo Li http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ml9/
Wolfram Pernice wolfram.pernice@yale.edu
Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering http://www.yinqe.yale.edu/

Janet Rettig Emanuel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.yale.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons
27.06.2017 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences

nachricht Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold
26.06.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Collapse of the European ice sheet caused chaos

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

NASA sees quick development of Hurricane Dora

27.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins

27.06.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>