The broader impact/commercial potential of this PFI project is the significant increase in the capability and viability of high sensitivity chemical identification without the need for large and expensive infrared light sources. The aim of this project is to develop a commercially viable, compact, table-top light source that provides suitable intensities and wavelengths to characterize materials and chemicals with increased sensitivity. This will complement the capabilities of the semiconductor and bio-medical industries to innovate in nanotechnology and biotechnology by allowing them to obtain a thorough understanding of their materials and systems in a cost-effective manner. This project will also enable the education and training of graduate and undergraduate students who are inclined towards the applied and commercial aspects of physics research. Contacts with suppliers of components for the infrared light source and with potential customers are further broad impacts of this project. This project has the potential to contribute to the economy of Virginia and the USA via the expected establishment of a start-up company that will create jobs, revenue, and intellectual property.
The proposed project will tackle the lack of commercially available light sources that are ultra-broadband and highly brilliant in the far- to near-infrared spectral range. The objective is to optimize the argon plasma light source prototype by increasing its lifetime of stable light output to hundreds of hours. The optimized product will improve data acquisition efficiency in spectroscopy applications especially in industry. The plan is to redesign this device improving on what has been learned from the previous iteration by optimizing the thermal properties, inner chamber design, and component replacement process allowing routine operation and maintenance to be simple, efficient, and reproducible. The characteristics of infrared radiation from a high temperature plasma in the frequency range between 100 cm-1 and 2500 cm-1 have not been studied in the past. This is because the quartz bulb in commercial xenon plasma lamps is opaque to infrared radiation in the above frequency range. The infrared emission characteristics of the proposed light source between 100 cm-1 and 2500 cm-1 and even higher frequencies will be measured using spectrometers and microscopes similar to the ones used extensively in industry, thus demonstrating the source's compatibility with existing spectroscopy equipment.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.