Imec demos Raman chip with smartphone integration potential

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Nanoelectronics research hub, Imec, has developed an on-chip solution for Raman spectroscopy, which it is showing at SPIE Photonics West this week in San Francisco.

The technology, based on a new concept, gives high optical throughput and high spectral resolution. Imec says the solution could pave the way for an affordable high-end handheld Raman spectrometer, and even integration into smartphones.

Imec’s new concept is based on massive parallelisation of waveguide interferometers integrated monolithically on top of a CMOS image sensor. In this way, both high optical throughput and high spectral resolution can be reached in a small device, something that isn’t possible with conventional dispersive Raman spectrometry.

Handheld Raman spectrometers are available, but generally lack the performance of tabletop systems. This is because of the limited scaling capacity of dispersive Raman devices, whereby scattered light is focused on a slit. Scaling while maintaining high spectral resolution of less than 1nm means reducing the size of the slit, which limits the optical throughput.

Imec’s system is built in the centre’s SiN biophotonics platform, which guarantees robustness and compatibility with high-volume manufacturing. Part of the work was performed under the EU-funded IoSense programme.

Pol Van Dorpe, principal member of the technical staff at Imec, commented: ‘We are very pleased to have achieved this milestone which can mean a breakthrough for the general applicability of Raman spectroscopy. One could even think about smartphone integration.

‘With the right partners we see many application opportunities in areas like food analysis, melanoma detection, or skin hydration,’ he continued. ‘In the medical domain, we see opportunities for in-line measurements during surgery or endoscopy. And for space exploration, the ability to perform material analysis with a compact system is of tremendous value.’

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