Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New microscope chemically identifies micron-sized particles

06.01.2017

Low-cost spectroscopy technique could allow detection of microscopic amounts of chemicals for applications in security, law enforcement and research

Researchers have developed a microscope that can chemically identify individual micron-sized particles. The new approach could one day be used in airports or other high-security venues as a highly sensitive and low-cost way to rapidly screen people for microscopic amounts of potentially dangerous materials.


Multiple species of micron-sized particles are simultaneously illuminated by an infrared laser and a green laser beam. Absorption of the infrared laser light by the particles increases their temperatures, causing them to expand and slightly altering their optical properties. These changes are unique to the material composition of each particle and can be measured by examining the modulation of scattered green light from each particle.

Credit: Ryan Sullenberger, MIT Lincoln Laboratory

In the journal Optics Letters, from The Optical Society (OSA), researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory, USA, demonstrated their new microscope by measuring infrared spectra of individual 3-micron spheres made of silica or acrylic. The new technique uses a simple optical setup consisting of compact components that will allow the instrument to be miniaturized into a portable device about the size of a shoebox.

"The most important advantage of our new technique is its highly sensitive, yet remarkably simple design," said Ryan Sullenberger, associate staff at MIT Lincoln Labs and first author of the paper. "It provides new opportunities for nondestructive chemical analysis while paving the way towards ultra-sensitive and more compact instrumentation."

The microscope's ability to identify individual particles could make it useful for fast detection of chemical threats or controlled substances. Its high sensitivity is also ideal for scientific analysis of very small samples or for measuring the optical properties of materials.

Probing spectral fingerprints

Infrared spectroscopy is typically used to identify unknown materials because almost every material can be identified by its unique infrared absorption spectrum, or fingerprint. The new method detects this infrared fingerprint without using infrared detectors. These detectors add significant bulk to traditional instruments which is limiting for portable devices because of their requirement for cooling.

The new technique works by illuminating particles with both an infrared laser and a green laser. The infrared laser deposits energy into the particles, causing them to heat up and expand. The green laser light is then scattered by these heated particles. A visible-wavelength camera is used to monitor this scattering, tracking physical changes of the individual particles through the microscope's lens.

The instrument can be used to identify the material composition of individual particles by tuning the infrared laser to different wavelengths and collecting the visible scattered light at each wavelength. The slight heating of the particles doesn't impart any permanent changes to the material, making the technique ideal for non-destructive analysis.

The ability to excite particles with infrared light and then look at their scattering with visible wavelengths - a process called photothermal modulation of Mie scattering - has been used since the 1980s. This new work uses more advanced optical components to create and detect the Mie scattering and is the first to use an imaging configuration to detect multiple species of particles.

"We're actually imaging the area that we're interrogating," said Alexander Stolyarov, technical staff and a co-author of the paper. "This means we can simultaneously probe multiple particles on the surface at the same time."

The new microscope's use of visible wavelengths for imaging gives it a spatial resolution of around 1 micron, compared to the roughly 10-micron resolution of traditional infrared spectroscopy methods. This increased resolution allows the new technique to distinguish and identify individual particles that are extremely small and close together.

"If there are two very different particles in the field of view, we're able to identify each of them," said Stolyarov. "This would never be possible with a conventional infrared technique because the image would be indistinguishable."

Compact, tunable infrared laser

The development of compact, tunable quantum cascade infrared lasers was a key enabling technology for the new technique. The researchers combined a quantum cascade laser with a very stable visible laser source and a commercially available scientific-grade camera.

"We are hoping to see an improvement in high-power wavelength-tunable quantum cascade lasers," said Sullenberger. "A more powerful infrared laser enables us to interrogate larger areas in the same amount of time, allowing more particles to be probed simultaneously."

The researchers plan to test their microscope on additional materials, including particles that are not spherical in shape. They also want to test their setup in more realistic environments that might contain interferents in the form of particles that aren't from the chemical of interest.

"The presence of interferents is perhaps the biggest challenge I anticipate we will need to overcome," said Stolyarov. "Although contamination is a problem for any technique measuring absorption from small amounts of materials, I think our technique can solve that problem because of its ability to probe one particle at a time."

###

Paper: R.M. Sullenberger, S.M. Redmond, D. Crompton, A.M. Stolyarov, W.D. Herzog, "Spatially-Resolved Individual Particle Spectroscopy using Photothermal Modulation of Mie Scattering," Opt. Lett., Vol. 42, Issue 2,203-206, (2017). DOI: 10.1364/OL.42.000203.

This material is based upon work supported by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering under Air Force Contract No. FA8721-05-C-0002 and/or FA8702-15-D-0001. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

About Optics Letters

Optics Letters offers rapid dissemination of new results in all areas of optics with short, original, peer-reviewed communications. Optics Letters covers the latest research in optical science, including optical measurements, optical components and devices, atmospheric optics, biomedical optics, Fourier optics, integrated optics, optical processing, optoelectronics, lasers, nonlinear optics, optical storage and holography, optical coherence, polarization, quantum electronics, ultrafast optical phenomena, photonic crystals and fiber optics.

About The Optical Society

Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org/100.

Media Contacts:

Rebecca B. Andersen
The Optical Society
randersen@osa.org
+1 202.416.1443

Joshua Miller
The Optical Society
jmiller@osa.org
+1 202.416.1435

http://www.osa.org 

Joshua Miller | EurekAlert!

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: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>