Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nano-sized Electronic Circuit Promises Bright View Of Early Universe

Date:
July 15, 2008
Source:
Rutgers University
Summary:
A newly developed nano-sized electronic device is an important step toward helping astronomers see invisible light dating from the creation of the universe. This invisible light makes up 98 percent of the light emitted since the "big bang," and may provide insights into the earliest stages of star and galaxy formation almost 14 billion years ago.

Physics Prof. Michael Gershenson with laboratory equipment used to fabricate ultra-sensitive, nano-sized infrared light detector.
Credit: Carl Blesch

A newly developed nano-sized electronic device is an important step toward helping astronomers see invisible light dating from the creation of the universe. This invisible light makes up 98% of the light emitted since the “big bang,” and may provide insights into the earliest stages of star and galaxy formation almost 14 billion years ago.

The tiny, new circuit, developed by physicsts at Rutgers University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the State University of New York at Buffalo, is 100 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. It is sensitive to faint traces of light in the far-infrared spectrum (longest of the infrared wavelengths), well beyond the colors humans see.

“In the expanding universe, the earliest stars move away from us at a speed approaching the speed of light,” said Michael Gershenson, professor of physics at Rutgers and one of the lead investigators. “As a result, their light is strongly red-shifted when it reaches us, appearing infrared.”

Because the Earth’s atmosphere strongly absorbs far-infrared light, Earth-based radiotelescopes cannot detect the very faint light emitted by these stars. So scientists are proposing a new generation of space telescopes to gather this light. Yet to take full advantage of space-borne telescopes, detectors that capture the light will have to be far more sensitive than any that exist today.

Detectors of infrared and submillimeter waves, known as bolometers, measure the heat generated when they absorb photons, or units of light. Today’s infrared bolometer technology is mature and has reached the limit of its performance.

“The device we built, which we call a hot-electron nanobolometer, is potentially 100 times more sensitive than existing bolometers,” Gershenson said. “It is also faster to react to the light that hits it.”

The research team is publishing a description of the experimental device in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The team is led by Gershenson and Boris Karasik of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a NASA center managed by the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). Most of the fabrication and measurement work was done at Rutgers by graduate student Jian Wei, now a post-doctoral associate at the Northwestern University; postdoctoral researcher David Olaya, now with the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and postdoctoral researcher Sergey Pereverzev, now with JPL and CalTech. The theoretical support for this research was provided by Andrei Sergeev of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Made of titanium and niobium metals, the novel device is about 500 nanometers long and 100 nanometers wide. The physicists built it using thin-film and nanolithography techniques similar to those used in computer chip fabrication. The device operates at very cold temperatures – about 459 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, or one-tenth of one degree above absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.

Photons striking the nanodetector heat electrons in the titanium section, which is thermally isolated from the environment by superconducting niobium leads. By detecting the infinitesimal amount of heat generated in the titanium section, one can measure the light energy absorbed by the detector. The device can detect as little as a single photon of far infrared light.

“With this single detector, we have demonstrated a proof of concept,” said Gershenson. “The final goal is to build and test an array of 100 by 100 photodetectors, which is a very difficult engineering job.” Rutgers took the lead on fabrication and electrical characterization of the single detector, and JPL will take the lead on the optical characterization of the detector and developing detector arrays.

Gershenson expects the detector technology to be useful for exploring the early universe when satellite-based far-infrared telescopes start flying 10 to 20 years from now. “That will make our new technology useful for examining stars and star clusters at the farthest reaches of the universe,” he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Rutgers University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jian Wei et al. Ultrasensitive hot-electron nanobolometers for terahertz astrophysics. Nature Nanotechnology, 6 July 2008 DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.173

Cite This Page:

Rutgers University. "Nano-sized Electronic Circuit Promises Bright View Of Early Universe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080710155246.htm>.
Rutgers University. (2008, July 15). Nano-sized Electronic Circuit Promises Bright View Of Early Universe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080710155246.htm
Rutgers University. "Nano-sized Electronic Circuit Promises Bright View Of Early Universe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080710155246.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins