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Incoherent broadband mid-infrared detection with lanthanide nanotransducers


Spectral conversion of mid-infrared (MIR) radiation to visible (VIS) and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths is a fundamental technology for spectroscopy and imaging; however, current MIR-to-VIS/NIR conversion technology is limited to nonlinear optics with bulky crystals or resonant nanocavities. Here we report lanthanide-based MIR-to-NIR nanotransducers that enable broadband MIR sensing at room temperature by harnessing ratiometric luminescence changes. The ratiometric luminescence of lanthanide nanotransducers in the NIR region can be incoherently modulated by MIR radiation in the 4.5–10.8 µm wavelength range. Ratiometric modulation of luminescence enables a detection limit of ~0.3 nW × µm−2 with an internal quantum efficiency on the order of 3 × 10−3. The ratiometric sensor based on lanthanide nanotransducers does not require cryogenic cooling, polarization control, phase matching or nanoantenna design for light confinement. We also developed a camera with lanthanide nanotransducers, which enable room-temperature MIR imaging. We anticipate that these lanthanide nanotransducers can be extended to MIR light manipulation at the microscale for chip-integrated device applications.

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Fig. 1: Mechanism of incoherent broadband MIR detection using lanthanide nanotransducers.
Fig. 2: Ratiometric luminescence transduction from MIR radiation to the NIR region.
Fig. 3: Response of ratiometric luminescent nanotransducers to MIR stimulation.
Fig. 4: Proof-of-concept for lanthanide nanotransducer-mediated broadband gas sensing and room-temperature MIR imaging with a CMOS camera.

Data availability

All relevant data that support the findings of this work are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Source Data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The Mathematica and 1stOpt-based codes for theoretical modelling and numerical simulations are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This work was supported by the Singapore Ministry of Education (grant nos. MOE2017-T2-2-110 and MOE2016-T3-1-006(S)), the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) (grant nos. A1983c0038 and A2090b0144), and National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore (award nos. NRF-NRFI05-2019-003, NRF-CRP18-2017-02, NRF-CRP22-2019-0002 and NRF-CRP19-2017-01).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



L.L. and X.L. conceived the idea. X.L. and Q.J.W. supervised the project and led the collaborative efforts. L.L. designed the nanotransducers and conducted numerical simulations with contributions from J.C. L.L. and C.W. conducted optical experiments. L.L., C.W. and X.L. wrote the manuscript. All authors participated in the discussion and analysis of the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Liangliang Liang, Qi Jie Wang or Xiaogang Liu.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Nanotechnology thanks Guanying Chen, Dayong Jin and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–8 and Table 1.

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Source Data for Fig. 2b,c.

Source Data Fig. 3

Source Data for Fig. 3.

Source Data Fig. 4

Source Data for Fig. 4a,b.

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Liang, L., Wang, C., Chen, J. et al. Incoherent broadband mid-infrared detection with lanthanide nanotransducers. Nat. Photon. (2022).

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