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First chip-scale broadband optical system that can sense molecules in the mid-infared

Researchers have demonstrated, for the first time, a chip-based dual-comb spectrometer in the mid-infrared range, that requires no moving parts and can acquire spectra in less than 2 microseconds. The system, which consists of two mutually coherent, low-noise, microresonator-based frequency combs spanning 2600 nm to 4100 nm, could lead to the development of a spectroscopy lab-on-a-chip for real-time sensing on the nanosecond time scale. Creating a spectroscopic sensing device on a chip that can realize real-time, high-throughput detection of trace molecules has been challenging. In this current study, the researchers focused on the mid-IR range, which, because its strong molecular absorption is typically 10 to 1,000 times greater than those in the visible or near-infrared, is ideal for detecting trace molecules. The mid-IR range effectively covers the "fingerprint" of many molecules. The team performed mid-IR dual-comb spectroscopy using two silicon nanophotonic devices as microresonators. Their integrated devices enabled the direct generation of broadband mid-infrared light and fast acquisition speeds for characterizing molecular absorption.

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