First Nanoscale Tunable Infrared Source Unveiled

A new nanoparticle amplifier that can generate infrared light and boost the output of one light by capturing and converting energy from a second light has been demonstrated by photonics researchers at Rice University.

The creation of Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), the device functions similar to a laser. While lasers have a fixed output frequency, however, the output from Rice’s nanoscale “optical parametric amplifier” (OPA) can be tuned over a range of frequencies that includes a portion of the infrared spectrum.

Study lead author Yu Zhang said:

That is around 15 times smaller than a red blood cell. Zhang said shrinking an infrared light source to such a small scale could open doors to new kinds of chemical sensing and molecular imaging that aren’t possible with today’s state-of-the-art nanoscale infrared spectroscopy.

[caption id="attachment_3863” align="aligncenter” width="640”]light-amplifying nanoparticle Rice University’s new light-amplifying nanoparticle consists of a 190-nanometer diameter sphere of barium tin oxide surrounded by a 30-nanometer-thick shell of gold. Credit: Alejandro Manjavacas /Rice University[/caption]

LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the new study and the director of Rice’s Smalley-Curl Institute, said:

While the pump laser in Rice’s device has a fixed wavelength, both the signal and idler frequencies are tunable.

One of LANP’s specialties is the design of multifunctional plasmonic nanoparticles that interact with light in more than one way. Zhang said the nanoscale OPA project required LANP’s team to create a single particle that could simultaneously resonate with three frequencies of light.

Study: Toward Surface Plasmon-Enhanced Optical Parametric Amplification (SPOPA) with Engineered Nanoparticles: A Nanoscale Tunable Infrared Source, Nano Letters (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b01095

Top Image: Yu Zhang. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

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