Scientists at Stanford University and Japan's National Institute of Informatics have created a new highly sensitive infrared spectrometer. The device converts light from the infrared part of the spectrum to the visible part, where the availability of superior optical detectors results in strongly improved sensing capabilities. The research will appear in the Nov. 24 issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society's open access journal. The new spectrometer is 100 times more sensitive than current commercial optical spectrum analyzers used in industrial applications such as optical communication, semiconductor microelectronics and forensic analysis.
Current spectrometers being used on the market today cover a wide spectral range, allow for moderately fast wavelength sweeps, have a good spectral resolution and don't require cryogenic cooling. However, the sensitivity of these instruments is limited, making them unsuitable for capturing single-photon-level spectra at telecommunication wavelengths. Cryogenic cooling can increase the sensitivity of these devices, yet reduces the usefulness for industrial applications. One possible solution is to up-convert near-infrared to visible light in a nonlinear medium. The up-converted photons can then be detected using a single-photon detector for visible light. The authors use a single-photon counting module, which results in 100 times better sensitivity. They implemented the frequency conversion via sum-frequency generation in a periodically poled lithium niobate waveguide, which can be thought of as combining two low-energy photons to get one high-energy photon.
"Waveguide-Based Single-Pixel Up-Conversion Infrared Spectrometer," Optics Express, Vol. 16, Issue 24.
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A periodically poled lithium niobate (PPLN) waveguide-based single-pixel up-conversion infrared spectrometer was demonstrated. Sum-frequency generation between a 1.5-μm-band scanning pump laser and a 1.3-μm-band signal generated visible radiation which was detected by a silicon single-photon detector. The up-conversion spectrometer's sensitivity was two-orders-of-magnitudes higher than that of a commercial optical spectrum analyzer.
Ginzton Laboratory, Stanford University, USA
Professor of Physics, Tampere University of Technology, Finland
Associate Editor, Optics Express
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