MIRTHE+ conducts interdisciplinary research on mid-infrared (mid-IR) spectroscopic systems based on the Quantum Cascade (QC) laser. Building upon semiconductor technology and microelectronic systems integration, MIRTHE+ develops point and remote sensor systems with inherent potential for compactness, mass-market manufacturing, low cost, and applies these systems to address many of society’s pressing environmental, medical, and security needs.
What’s so special about the mid-infrared?
* Molecules are uniquely identifiable through their mid-IR absorption spectra
* Strong resonance lines = single-molecule or parts-per-trillion sensitivity
* Optical measurements are fast and neither invasive nor destructive
How does a mid-IR sensor work?
Light from a mid-IR laser source is directed into a small cavity filled with air, exhaled breath or other gas sample. A detector records how much light is absorbed by trace gases in the sample, making it possible for scientists to identify the chemical composition of the gas.
This thin strip is the actual QC laser, also visible are the fine gold wires used to make electrical contact with the device.
The copper block serves as a mount and heat sink.Quantum Cascade (QC) lasers are among the many technological improvements that make mid-IR sensing a possibility. QC lasers cover the entire mid-IR wavelength range (3 – 17 mm) by tailoring thicknesses of the same material.
Mid-IR sensors will help address critical societal needs
* Scientists have only a cursory understanding of pollution patterns or what to do in the case of a chemical or biological attack. Sensors would be invaluable for both.
* Doctors could use breath for clinical diagnosis of diseases like kidney and liver disorders
* Much of the Northeastern US is non-compliance with clean air standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency
* Scientists ability to understand and monitor global warming trends would be improved tremendously with cheap, easy to use sensors for greenhouse gases
MIRTHE+ technology impact:
Transform society by opening up new avenues to a cleaner, safer environment and improved health care.
* In environment and homeland security: Clean urban and other polluted environments; Understand global climate process; Safeguard public spaces
* In health: Understand human metabolic activity (markers); Enhance medical capabilities in disease diagnostics and treatment
* In industrial outreach: Create new product lines for industries; Create new markets for industry; with global impact; Create tools for new research directions