A new chip puts photonic information at your fingertips. — daily science

Spectrometers are widely used in industry and research to detect and analyze light. Spectrometers measure the spectrum of light (its strength at different wavelengths, like the colors of a rainbow) and are an essential tool for identifying and analyzing samples and materials. On-chip spectrometers would be of great benefit to a variety of technologies, including quality inspection platforms, safety sensors, biomedical analyzers, healthcare systems, environmental monitoring tools, and space telescopes.

An international research team led by Aalto University researchers has developed highly sensitive spectrometers with high wavelength precision, high spectral resolution and wide operating bandwidth, using only a microchip-sized detector. The research behind this new ultraminiaturized spectrometer was published today in the journal Sciences.

‘Our single detector spectrometer is an all-in-one device. We designed this optoelectronic lab on a chip with artificial intelligence that replaces conventional hardware such as optical and mechanical components. Therefore, our computational spectrometer does not require separate bulky components or array designs to scatter and filter light. It can achieve high resolution comparable to desktop systems, but in a much smaller package,” says postdoctoral researcher Hoon Hahn Yoon.

‘With our spectrometer, we can measure the intensity of light at every wavelength beyond the visible spectrum using a device at our fingertips. The device is completely electrically controllable, so it has enormous potential for scalability and integration. Integrating it directly into wearable devices like smartphones and drones could improve our daily lives. Imagine that the next generation of cameras in our smartphones could be equipped with hyperspectral cameras that outperform color cameras,” he adds.

The reduction of computational spectrometers is essential for their use in implantable chips and applications. Professor Zhipei Sun, head of the research team, says: ‘Conventional spectrometers are bulky because they need optical and mechanical components, so their on-chip applications are limited. There is an emerging demand in this field to improve the performance and usability of spectrometers. From this point of view, miniaturized spectrometers are very important to offer high performance and new functions in all fields of science and industry.”

Professor Pertti Hakonen adds that ‘Finland and Aalto have invested in photonics research in recent years. For example, there has been strong support from the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence for Quantum Technology, Flagship on Photonics Research and Innovation, InstituteQ and Otanano Infrastructure. Our new spectrometer is a clear demonstration of the success of these collaborative efforts. I believe that with further improvements in resolution and efficiency, these spectrometers could provide new tools for quantum information processing.”

In addition to postdoctoral researcher Hoon Hahn Yoon and professors Zhipei Sun and Pertti Hakonen, key Aalto members attached to the work included postdoctoral researchers Henry A. Fernandez and Faisal Ahmed, doctoral researchers Fedor Nigmatulin, Xiaoqi Cui, Md Gius Uddin and Professor Harri Lipsanen. Professor Ethan D. Minot, from Oregon State University, joined this work as a visiting scholar at Aalto University for a year. The Aalto University-led international research team also included Professors Weiwei Cai (Shanghai Jiao Tong University), Zongyin Yang (Zhejiang University), Hanxiao Cui (Sichuan University), Kwanpyo Kim (Yonsei University) and Tawfique Hassan (Cambridge University).

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Materials provided by Aalto University. Note: content can be edited for style and length.

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