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Nanoelectromechanical Infrared Detector

Project description

A breakthrough uncooled detector heralds a new era for terahertz technologies

The terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum hosts a wealth of intriguing interactions between radiation and matter. Potential applications include food and agriculture quality control, drug development, security screening, medical imaging, and environmental monitoring. The EU-funded NIRD project is working on a high-sensitivity uncooled detector that can sense terahertz radiation at room temperature. By coupling nanoplasmonic antennas to highly sensitive nanomechanical resonators, the uncooled detector could exceed the sensitivity of state-of-the-art liquid helium cooled bolometers by two orders of magnitude. This breakthrough detector will advance uncooled detectors into new realms of sensitivity, enabling terahertz technology to leave the laboratory for widespread use in many applications.


The aim of this proposal is to develop an uncooled nanoelectromechanical detector for infrared (IR) and terahertz (THz) radiation, which surpasses the sensitivity of state-of-the-art uncooled detectors by up to two orders of magnitude. The reliable and quantitative sensing of light is a fundamental task ubiquitous to modern technology. The IR to THz region of the electromagnetic spectrum hosts a wealth of intriguing interactions between radiation and matter, which are of particular interest for a wide range of applications including quality control in food and agriculture, drug development in pharma, medical imaging, security scanning, environmental monitoring, astronomy, and fundamental research. Because of the low energy of IR/THz photons, highly effective photodiodes don’t exist in this region and detectors typically rely on less sensitive thermal detectors. In order to reach sensitivities comparable to what is obtainable with photodiodes in the visible and near IR region, thermal IR detectors require cryogenic cooling. In our ongoing work on photothermal coupling of nanoplasmonic antennas and single molecules to nanomechanical resonators (ERC-StG PLASMECS), we have recently obtained an extraordinary sensitivity of 16 fW/rtHz at room temperature in the visible regime, which even exceeds the sensitivity of state-of-the-art LHe cooled bolometers. The ERC PoC grant would allow us to develop our current nanomechanical sensor further to an innovative uncooled IR/THz detector with unprecedented sensitivity. The resulting detector would constitute a breakthrough by improving the current sensitivity of state-of-the-art uncooled detectors to the fundamental photon noise limit. Such a detector would not only spur IR-THz-research, but more importantly, without the need of cryogenic cooling it would enable IR/THz technology to actually leave the laboratory and make a big impact in many fields of application.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 140 000,00
1040 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (2)