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Sensing the infrared: Researchers improve IR detectors with single-walled carbon nanotubes
Date:5/23/2012

rication of carbon nanotube infrared detectors can be readily implemented on a flexible substrate and large wafer at a low cost," explains Wang.

The detector demonstrated "acceptable sensitivity" at room temperature and may be significantly improved by increasing the density of the carbon nanotubes, according to the team. The signal-to-noise performance of conventional infrared photodetectors is limited by their natural infrared emission, which is subsequently absorbed by the detector. To avoid having this stray radiation overwhelm the detector, liquid nitrogen or electric cooling is generally used to suppress this thermal effect. However, this makes infrared detectors more complex and expensive to operate. The new design eliminates this need because carbon nanotubes have special thermal properties. At room temperature, they emit comparatively little infrared radiation of their own, especially when the carbon nanotube is on the substrate. In addition, nanotubes are very good at conducting heat, so temperatures do not build up on the detector itself.

One of the biggest surprises for the team was achieving relatively high infrared detectivity (the radiation power required to produce a signal from a photoconductor) using a carbon nanotube thin film only a few nanometers thick, Wang points out. Notably, conventional infrared detectors require much thicker films, on the scale of hundreds of nanometers, to obtain comparable detectivity.

Another huge advantage of the detector is that the fabrication process is completely compatible with carbon nanotube transistors meaning no big expensive equipment changes are necessary. "Our doping-free chemical approach provides an ideal platform for carbon nanotube electronic and optoelectronic integrated circuits," says Wang.

The next step for the team is to focus on improving the detectivity of the detector with greater SWNT density, and to also achieve a wide spectrum response with improved diam
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Contact: Angela Stark
astark@osa.org
202-416-1443
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert  

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