Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NIST device for detecting subatomic-scale motion may aid robotics, homeland security

19.12.2016

Highly sensitive measuring tool can also be mass-produced

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new device that measures the motion of super-tiny particles traversing distances almost unimaginably small--shorter than the diameter of a hydrogen atom, or less than one-millionth the width of a human hair.


Schematic shows laser light interacting with a plasmonic gap resonator, a miniature device designed at NIST to measure with unprecedented precision the nanoscale motions of nanoparticles. An incident laser beam (pink beam at left) strikes the resonator, which consists of two layers of gold separated by an air gap. The top gold layer is embedded in an array of tiny cantilevers (violet)--vibrating devices resembling a miniature diving board. When a cantilever moves, it changes the width of the air gap, which, in turn, changes the intensity of the laser light reflected from the resonator. The modulation of the light reveals the displacement of the tiny cantilever.

Credit: Brian Roxworthy/NIST

Not only can the handheld device sense the atomic-scale motion of its tiny parts with unprecedented precision, but the researchers have devised a method to mass produce the highly sensitive measuring tool.

It's relatively easy to measure small movements of large objects but much more difficult when the moving parts are on the scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. The ability to accurately measure tiny displacements of microscopic bodies has applications in sensing trace amounts of hazardous biological or chemical agents, perfecting the movement of miniature robots, accurately deploying airbags and detecting extremely weak sound waves traveling through thin films.

NIST physicists Brian Roxworthy and Vladimir Aksyuk describe their work (link is external) in the Dec. 6, 2016, Nature Communications.

The researchers measured subatomic-scale motion in a gold nanoparticle. They did this by engineering a small air gap, about 15 nanometers in width, between the gold nanoparticle and a gold sheet. This gap is so small that laser light cannot penetrate it.

However, the light energized surface plasmons--the collective, wave-like motion of groups of electrons confined to travel along the boundary between the gold surface and the air.

The researchers exploited the light's wavelength, the distance between successive peaks of the light wave. With the right choice of wavelength, or equivalently, its frequency, the laser light causes plasmons of a particular frequency to oscillate back and forth, or resonate, along the gap, like the reverberations of a plucked guitar string.

Meanwhile, as the nanoparticle moves, it changes the width of the gap and, like tuning a guitar string, changes the frequency at which the plasmons resonate.

The interaction between the laser light and the plasmons is critical for sensing tiny displacements from nanoscale particles, notes Aksyuk. Light can't easily detect the location or motion of an object smaller than the wavelength of the laser, but converting the light to plasmons overcomes this limitation. Because the plasmons are confined to the tiny gap, they are more sensitive than light is for sensing the motion of small objects like the gold nanoparticle.

The amount of laser light reflected back from the plasmon device reveals the width of the gap and the motion of the nanoparticle. Suppose, for example, that the gap changes--due to the motion of the nanoparticle--in such a way that the natural frequency, or resonance, of the plasmons more closely matches the frequency of the laser light. In that case, the plasmons are able to absorb more energy from the laser light, and less light is reflected.

To use this motion-sensing technique in a practical device, Aksyuk and Roxworthy embedded the gold nanoparticle in a microscopic-scale mechanical structure--a vibrating cantilever, sort of a miniature diving board--that was a few micrometers long, made of silicon nitride. Even when they're not set in motion, such devices never sit perfectly still, but vibrate at high frequency, jostled by the random motion of their molecules at room temperature. Even though the amplitude of the vibration was tiny--moving subatomic distances--it was easy to detect with the new plasmonic technique. Similar, though typically larger, mechanical structures are commonly used for both scientific measurements and practical sensors; for example, detecting motion and orientation in cars and smartphones. The NIST scientists hope their new way of measuring motion at the nanoscale will help to further miniaturize and improve performance of many such micromechanical systems.

"This architecture paves the way for advances in nanomechanical sensing," the researchers write. "We can detect tiny motion more locally and precisely with these plasmonic resonators than any other way of doing it," said Aksyuk.

The team's fabrication approach allows production of some 25,000 of the devices on a computer chip, with each device tailored to detect motion according to the needs of the manufacturer.

###

Roxworthy and Aksyuk, the two authors of the new paper, work in NIST's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST).

B.J. Roxworthy and V.A. Aksyuk. Nanomechanical motion transduction with a scalable localized gap plasmon architecture. Nature Communications. December 6, 2016. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13746

Media Contact

Ben Stein
benjamin.stein@nist.gov
301-975-2763

 @usnistgov

http://www.nist.gov 

Ben Stein | EurekAlert!

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers
20.07.2018 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore

nachricht Study suggests buried Internet infrastructure at risk as sea levels rise
18.07.2018 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>