An international team of researchers has developed a mid-infrared spectrometer that is smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
There is a great deal of interest around the world in the development of compact built-in spectrometers. Their scope of application is huge – from the detection of greenhouse gases to the control of the safety of unmanned vehicles.
Traditional spectrometers, which receive spectral information about light, are cumbersome and expensive. The built-in spectrometer will greatly expand the scope and availability of the technology.
Recently, a group of researchers from the United States, Israel and Japan has developed an ultra-compact mid-infrared spectrometer. Recall that the wavelength in this range is from 3 microns to 50 microns.
The device uses black phosphorus (BP). This material, about ten nanometers thick, makes it possible to tune the interaction of light and matter to capture different spectral components. Moreover, an equally important role in this spectrometer is played by an improved algorithm, partially transferring the complexity of spectroscopy from hardware to software.
Unlike its counterparts, the system does not rely on advanced optical components such as interferometers or tunable infrared lasers. This opens the door to miniaturization of spectrometers and provides affordable in-crystal mid-infrared spectroscopy and spectral imaging.
The size of the spectrometer is 9×16 µm² – much smaller than the cross section of a human hair. The parameters are comparable to the wavelength of light that it measures.
Scientists have detailed the process of curing the spectrometer in an article for the journal Nature Photonics.