Chalcogenide glass mid-infrared on-chip sensor for chemical sensing

Lin, Hongtao
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University of Delaware
Chemical sensing in the mid-infrared (mid-IR) has been considered to be significant for molecular detection for decades, but until recently has mostly relied on benchtop spectroscopic instruments like Fourier transform infrared spectrometers, etc. Recent strides in planar photonic integration envision compact, standalone "sensor-on-a-chip" devices for molecular analysis as a potentially disruptive technology as compared to their conventional bulky counterparts. However, the difficulty of achieving adequate sensitivity in integrated optical sensors is still a key barrier towards their practical application, limited by the weak interactions between photons and molecules over the short optical path length accessible on a chip. To solve the sensitivity challenge, a novel mid-IR photothermal spectroscopic sensing technique was proposed and theoretically examined. Through dramatically amplified photothermal effects in an optical nano-cavity doubly resonant at both mid-IR pump and near infrared probe wavelengths, a device design based on nested 1-D nanobeam photonic crystal cavities is numerically analyzed to demonstrate the technique's potential for single small gas molecule detection without the need for cryogenically cooled mid-IR photo-detectors. Furthermore, since silica becomes opaque at wavelengths beyond 3.5 μm, new material platforms and fabrication techniques are needed for mid-IR on-chip chemical sensors. Chalcogenide glasses (ChG), amorphous compounds containing S, Se and Te, are ideal material choices for mid-IR chemical sensors given their broad mid-IR transparency window, large photothermal figure-of-merit, amorphous structure and low processing temperature. A ChG lift-off process and a nano-fabrication technique using focused ion beam milling have been developed to fabricate mid-IR ChG resonators and photonic crystal waveguide cavities. ChG resonators on CaF 2 substrate claimed a high quality factor around 4 × 105 . Using these devices, we have also demonstrated mid-IR cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy for the first time with mass loading limit of detection as low as 0.05 ng for ethanol.