Dr. E. H. Yang's Team Awarded AFOSR Grant for Advanced Infrared Detection Technology

Team led by Dr. E. H. Yang promises to provide tactical advantages for the Air Force and sophisticated apparatus for space exploration

Hoboken, NJ, September 28, 2012 --(PR.com)-- Any object with a temperature above absolute zero emits infrared (IR) radiation, and the ability to detect IR light has profoundly expanded visual capabilities, allowing people to see at night and machines to sense motion. Just as visible light is picked up by the silicon-based sensor pixels of a common digital camera, IR radiation is detected by the sensor pixels of an IR camera using a special material. The Stevens Institute of Technology team led by Dr. Eui-Hyeok Yang, professor of Mechanical Engineering, with Co-PI Dr. Stefan Strauf, professor of Physics and Engineering Physics, has been researching the potential of graphene-based sensor materials for improving IR detection. The team has been awarded a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) to make IR detection technology more versatile based on bilayer graphene micro-ribbons (BGMRs) that can be tuned to respond to different IR wavelengths.

Infrared vision has numerous civilian, military, and scientific uses. When visible light is scarce, objects very often continue to emit IR radiation. IR detection can therefore be used to secure buildings by sensing the presence of a person in a restricted area, provide a tactical advantage in warfare by allowing detailed surveillance of an area in the absence of visible light, and offer powerful investigative tools for space exploration that allow researchers to see the universe in greater detail.

“The overall IR detector market is expected to reach $286 million by 2016. The information and intelligence they provide for scientific research and military uses, respectively, magnifies the value of the technology,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “Dr. Yang and Dr. Strauf are formulating a sophisticated and flexible innovation that could set new standards for IR detection in high-grade applications.”

The ability to adjust the sensitivity to different wavelengths, or tunability, within a device would represent a tremendous refinement of semiconductor technology. The semiconductor materials used in existing IR detectors only react to a narrow spectrum of radiation, and they must be replaced before the detector can sense other IR wavelength regimes. The proposed use of bilayer graphene micro-ribbons (BGMRs) is novel in this aspect. They can be tuned to react to different parts of the IR spectrum, making it possible to develop IR detectors with extremely broad, ultra-fast photonic response. A prospective device using BGMRs can detect with higher speeds than existing broadband bolometers (used in many space observatories) while providing comparable sensitivity.

“This novel approach based on graphene promises to establish lower-cost detection of a broader spectrum of IR radiation than has ever been possible in a single compact instrument, without sacrificing sensitivity necessary in sophisticated applications,” says Dr. Constantin Chassapis, Deputy Dean of the School of Engineering and Science, and Director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The IR spectrum is divided into several bands that generally correspond to the available sensing technologies: Near IR/Short Wave IR, Mid Wave IR, Long Wave IR, and Very Long Wave IR. This innovation will detect IR radiation across all of these divisions thanks to its tunability, thus allowing researchers to use one device where they might previously have used several. The technology also eliminates the need for bulky dispersive optical elements used in conventional IR sensors, reducing an IR detector’s cost and making it more convenient.

According to Dr. Rainer Martini, “This research is an outstanding representation of the success of synergistic efforts between departments,” says Dr. Rainer Martini, Director of the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics. “These cross-disciplinary collaborations very often generate the solutions to today's greatest technology challenges.”

Dr. Yang is PI on a number of active grants in the area of research, education and equipment, from AFOSR and NSF. He directs the Micro Device Laboratory (MDL), a Stevens shared facility, and Nanoelectronics and Nanomechatronics Laboratory, his own lab at Stevens. He is an Associate Editor of several journals including IEEE Sensors, and Vice-Chair of ASME MEMS Division.

Dr. Strauf is Director of the NanoPhotonics Laboratory (NPL) at Stevens, where he oversees cutting-edge research in the fields of solid-state nanophotonics and quantum information science. He has received project funding from the AFOSR and NSF as a Co-PI and is also the recipient of the prestigious NSF CAREER Award.

About the Department of Mechanical Engineering
The Department of Mechanical Engineering confidently addresses the challenges facing engineering now and into the future, yet remains true to the vision of the founders of Stevens Institute in 1870 as one of the first engineering schools in the nation. The department produces graduates with a broad-based foundation in fundamental engineering principles and liberal arts together with the depth of disciplinary knowledge needed to succeed in a career in mechanical engineering or a related field, including a wide variety of advanced technological and management careers.
Learn more: visit www.stevens.edu/ses/me
Stevens Institute of Technology
Christine del Rosario