Researchers have developed a new technique to squeeze infrared light into ultra-confined spaces, generating an intense, nanoscale antenna that could be used to detect single biomolecules. The researchers harnessed the power of polaritons, particles that blur the distinction between light and matter. This ultra-confined light can be used to detect very small amounts of matter close to the polaritons. For example, many hazardous substances, such as formaldehyde, have an infrared signature that can be magnified by these antennas. The shape and size of the polaritons can also be tuned, paving the way to smart infrared detectors and biosensors. A future challenge for the team is to optimize these light nano-concentrators to achieve intensities high enough to enhance the interaction with a single molecule to detectable values.
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