Radiometry based on quantum phenomena, frequency synthesis in the optical spectrum, and precision optical measurements of physical properties are fast-expanding and highly promising research fields in the NIST-on-a-Chip (NoaC) program.
Chip-based Radiometers and Detectors
Sensors devised and demonstrated by NoaC scientists are making possible high-accuracy optical power measurements ranging from extremely faint, single-photon sources to the irradiance of the sun on orbiting satellites to the output of high-energy lasers. Parallel programs are devoted to advanced designs for single-photon and photon-counting detectors, as well as sources for single photons that can be used for robust on-chip calibration of single photon properties.
Research includes: quantum-based bolometers both with and without vertically aligned carbon nanotubes; on-chip, efficient quantum light sources and quantum circuits using quantum dots; and scalable, light-controlled, on-chip gates for quantum information processing.
Among the program’s goals is development of embedded standard radiometers for satellites.
Chip-scale Laser Frequency Combs
The ability to precisely synthesize microwave frequencies has had a titanic impact on American technology and commerce.
Now synthesizing optical frequencies (100,000 times higher) holds an equivalent promise for advanced communications and computing; remote sensing and ranging; a new generation of clocks with 100x improved precision; non-invasive medical diagnostics; and more. NoaC research has achieved a scientific breakthrough for optical frequency synthesis: the use of Kerr micro-resonator combs, tiny ring-shaped structures often called microcombs, that offer unprecedented precision in chip-scale, low-power devices.
Cavity optomechanics for measurements of force and mass
For centuries, mass and force measurements have been made using gravitational force acting on a physical mass. But that scheme is extremely difficult to scale up or down as necessary in the modern world. NIST is exploring a new physical process: photon pressure, the force that light exerts on material when it reflects off its surface.
NIST-on-a-Chip researchers are using photon pressure and other techniques to create devices that are compact, highly sensitive, and self-calibrating, and could be readily embedded into existing manufactured goods.