Researchers in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin have demonstrated the ability to perform nanoscale chemical analysis of molecular films with using infrared spectroscopy. The results were published in Nature Photonics in January 2014.
PhD students Feng Lu and Mingzhou Jin led by Professor Mikhail Belkin successfully acquired high-quality infrared spectra from as few as 300 molecules in a monolayer film in ambient conditions. These capabilities enable a highly-sensitive nanoscale analytical tool for chemists, biologists and materials scientists.
Infrared spectroscopy uses the pattern of molecular infrared absorption peaks, which acts as a chemical fingerprint, enabling identification. Due to light diffraction, however, traditional infrared microscopy can only achieve spatial resolution of several microns.
By employing a combination of electromagnetic and resonance enhancement mechanisms, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin achieved approximately two orders of magnitude improvement in sensitivity, enabling for the first time broadband high-quality nanoscale infrared spectroscopy of films as thin as a single molecule.
The Belkin group is now transferring this technology to a California-based company Anasys Instruments that develops a variety of tools for nanoscale materials characterisation.