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Catching the lightwave: Nano-mechanical sensors 'wired' by photonics
Date:4/26/2009

New Haven, Conn. As researchers push towards detection of single molecules, single electron spins and the smallest amounts of mass and movement, Yale researchers have demonstrated silicon-based nanocantilevers, smaller than the wavelength of light, that operate on photonic principles eliminating the need for electric transducers and expensive laser setups.

The work reported in an April 26 advance online publication of Nature Nanotechnology ushers in a new generation of tools for ultra-sensitive measurements at the atomic level.

In nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), cantilevers are the most fundamental mechanical sensors. These tiny structures fixed at one end and free at the other act like nano-scale diving boards that "bend" when molecules "jump" on them and register a change that can be measured and calibrated. This paper demonstrates how NEMS can be improved by using integrated photonics to sense the cantilever motion.

"The system we developed is the most sensitive available that works at room temperature. Previously this level of sensitivity could only be achieved at extreme low temperatures" said senior author Hong Tang, assistant professor of electrical and mechanical engineering in the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Their system can detect as little deflection in the nano-cantilever sensors as 0.0001 Angstroms one ten thousandth of the size of an atom

To detect this tiny motion, the Yale team devised a photonic structure to guide the light wave through a cantilever. After exiting from the free end of the cantilever, the light tunnels through a nanometer gap and is collected on chip. "Detecting the lightwave after this evanescent tunne
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Contact: Janet Rettig Emanuel
janet.emanuel@yale.edu
203-432-2157
Yale University
Source:Eurekalert  

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