Towards high-speed imaging of infrared photons with bio-inspired nanoarchitectures

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  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 31 July 2012

Abstract

Existing infrared detectors rely on complex microfabrication and thermal management methods. Here, we report an attractive platform of low-thermal-mass resonators inspired by the architectures of iridescent Morpho butterfly scales. In these resonators, the optical cavity is modulated by its thermal expansion and refractive index change, resulting in ‘wavelength conversion’ of mid-wave infrared (3–8 µm) radiation into visible iridescence changes. By doping Morpho butterfly scales with single-walled carbon nanotubes, we achieved mid-wave infrared detection with 18–62 mK temperature sensitivity and 35–40 Hz heat-sink-free response speed. The nanoscale pitch and the extremely small thermal mass of individual ‘pixels’ promise significant improvements over existing detectors. Computational analysis explains the origin of this thermal response and guides future conceptually new bio-inspired thermal imaging sensor designs.

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Figure 1: New principle of uncooled thermal detection based on the air-filled photonic architecture of iridescent scales of a Morpho butterfly.
Figure 2: Reflectance spectra of scale reflectors of Morpho butterflies.
Figure 3: Thermal performance of reflective Morpho butterfly scales.
Figure 4: Results of Fourier transform analysis of the dynamic response of the Morpho nanostructure.
Figure 5: Computed differential reflectivity spectra of Morpho butterfly reflectors due to thermally induced changes.

Change history

  • 11 July 2012

    In the version of this Article originally published, the measured temperature difference ΔT was at the detector plane, whereas the definition of temperature sensitivity (NETD) in equation (2) requires ΔT to be a thermal scene temperature difference. Thus, the NETD terminology in equation (2) has now been replaced with temperature sensitivity (TS). This error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the Article.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge J. Cournoyer and L. Denault for SEM and TEM imaging, M. Blohm, T. Leib, E. Hall and A. Linsebigler for encouragement, and N. Dhar for fruitful discussions. This work has been supported in part from DARPA contract W911QX-09-C-0062 “Bio Inspired IR Imaging” in 2009 and from General Electric's fundamental research funds. The views and conclusions contained in this paper are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as presenting the official policies or position, either expressed or implied, of DARPA or the US Government. Citation of manufacturers or trade names does not constitute an official endorsement or approval of the use thereof.

Author information

A.D.P. designed, performed and analysed experiments, and wrote the manuscript. Y.U. performed thermal analysis. C.S. and W.G.M. assisted in conducting experiments and data analysis. A.V. and S.Z. performed optical simulations. T.D. assisted in the experimental design and preparation of the manuscript. H.T.G. provided guidance on experimental design and data interpretation. R.A.P. developed the concept, designed control experiments, analysed experimental data and assisted in preparation of the manuscript.

Correspondence to Radislav A. Potyrailo.

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