Thursday, August 05, 2010

Light Amplifier Boosts Silicon's Optical Diagnoses

Detectors that can spot hazardous chemicals in the air today are expensive, but casting the technology onto cheap silicon chips could enable breath analyzers that diagnose disease from a puff of breath. Look for cheaper sensor for semiconductor inspection, test and measurement, chemical and petrochemical detection, homeland security as well as medical apps within five years. RColinJohnson @NextGenLog

Here is what Smarter Technology says about its optical sensor technology: From atmospheric pollution to signs of disease in human breath, IBM Research has retooled its silicon chip processing capabilities to tackle light amplification for the mid-infrared band. Used in trace gas-sensing systems, it can detect minute amounts of nearly any substance. Mid-infrared beacons cause molecules to vibrate in distinctive patterns, allowing that substance's composition to be read from its signature. IBM's mid-infrared optical amplifier is designed to boost the signal from these slight vibrations, making these detectors much more sensitive. In theory, if mid-infrared light could be amplified sufficiently, then spectroscopy could be made sensitive enough to diagnose a patient's disease from the molecules in his/her breath. Today, mid-infrared sensors are used for applications like semiconductor inspection, test and measurement, chemical and petrochemical detection, and homeland security. Unfortunately, the equipment used to sense with mid-infrared wavelengths presently is bulky and expensive. By crafting silicon chips with waveguides, optical gratings, and mixers, IBM Research hopes to lower the price, power consumption, and size of mid-infrared sensors...
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