We aim to pioneer a high-performance on-chip infrared spectrometer in response to Topic T8.07 Photonic Integrated Circuits (PIC). The technology will directly address space applications such as surface and atmospheric analysis on CubeSats and planetary landers, mineralogy, monitoring of volatile organic compound contaminants in spacecraft cabin atmospheres, and point-of-care diagnostics for astronauts, etc.
Miniaturized spectrometers are highly demanded by aerospace and other markets with growing needs for compact in-line, on-field and point-of-use measurement systems. PIC technologies have emerged as a promising solution for spectrometer miniaturization. However, existing mini-spectrometers are largely limited by trade-offs between size down-scaling and critical performance metrics and thus cannot offer performances comparable to classical benchtop instruments. This proposal builds on and will significantly advance an on-chip spectrometer design pioneered by the MIT group, digital Fourier Transform (dFT) spectrometer, which offers major performance, SWaP, robustness and scalability benefits—all highly needed features for space applications.
In Phase I, we will focus on developing a full-fledged, tapeout-ready PIC design for the proposed spectrometer, as well as fabrication, assembly and experimental validation of first generation electronics for spectrometer control and testing. We will also mature spectral data acquisition and processing algorithms. The spectrometer design features an ultra-broad bandwidth covering 1.26 – 2.4 um wavelengths (scalable to other bands such as mid-IR), a high spectral resolution of 0.14 nm, a spectral channel count exceeding 8000, and an ultra-compact on-chip footprint of 10 mm2. We'll leverage Si photonics foundry to demonstrate the spectrometer -- an essential path towards scalable and cost-effective manufacturing with a projected 100X cost reduction compared to commercial high-end benchtop instruments with similar performances.
Atmospheric and surface analysis, mineralogy, biomarker detection, monitoring of volatile organic compound contaminants in spacecraft cabin atmospheres, life-support system monitoring, point-of-care diagnostics for astronauts, in situ monitoring of scientific experiments, astronomical spectroscopy, Raman/fluorescence sensing, non-destructive structure evaluation, etc. The miniaturized, low-power, rugged optical module can be integrated with CubeSat, rover or balloon platforms, or sensor networks. Relevant NASA programs: PICASSO, IIP, ACT, etc.
Spectroscopic sensing, hyperspectral imaging, optical network monitoring, optical coherence tomography, etc. For example, the technology can be used for pharmaceutical process monitoring, petrochemical and agrochemical manufacturing control, environmental monitoring, wavelength monitoring in telecom systems, fiber optic sensing, nondestructive structure testing and medical imaging using OCT, etc.