The sensitive detection of infrared (IR) radiation is a essential task in today’s modern world. The sensitivity of the state-of-the-art uncooled thermal infrared detectors is still several orders of magnitude above the fundamental photon noise limit. Thermal detectors based on temperature sensitive micro- and nanomechanical resonators are a promising approach to obtain improved thermal IR detectors. Here, we present an uncooled infrared detector based on a 1 mm×1 mm large nanoelectromechanical drum resonator made of 50 nm thick low-stress silicon nitride (SiN). The detector features a titanium nitride absorber with an absorptivity of ∼30% over the entire mid-IR range. The detector drum is driven at its resonance frequency by means of a phase-locked loop. Absorbed IR radiation results in an observable detuning of the drum’s oscillation frequency. We measured an Allan deviation of σ<sub>A</sub> = 5.5 × 10<sup>−7</sup> at room temperature at a noise bandwidth of 25 Hz. With a responsivity of R = 343 W<sup>−1</sup> this results in a sensitivity defined as noise equivalent power (NEP) of NEP = 320 pW/rtHz for an IR beam at a wavelength of 9.5 µm. For this measurement, the IR beam focus spot diameter was equal to the drum size. The drum’s responsivity improves by a factor of ten for a focal spot size smaller than ∼ 100 μm. For smaller spots the responsivity remains constant. Based on this analysis we predict a sensitivity of ∼ 30 pW/rtHz for an IR spot size smaller than 100 μm. The detector can be improved further by e.g. optimizing the tensile pre-stress to a lower value or by improving the absorptivity.
Recent advances in the fabrication of nano- and micromechanical elements enable the realization of high-quality mechanical resonators with masses so small that the forces from optical photons can have a significant impact on their motion. This facilitates a strong interaction between mechanical motion and light, or phonons and photons. This interaction is the corner stone of the field of optomechanics and allows, for example, for ultrasensitive detection and manipulation of mechanical motion using laser light. Remarkably, today these techniques can be extended into the quantum regime, in which fundamental fluctuations of light and mechanics govern the system’s behavior. Micromechanical elements can also interact strongly with other physical systems, which is the central aspect of many micro-electro-mechanical based sensors. Micromechanical elements can therefore act as a bridge between these diverse systems, plus technologies that utilize them, and the mature toolbox of optical techniques that routinely operates at the quantum limit.
In a previous work , we demonstrated such a bridge by realizing simultaneous coupling between an electronic LC circuit and a quantum-noise limited optical interferometer. The coupling was mediated by a mechanical oscillator forming a mechanically compliant capacitor biased with a DC voltage. The latter enhances the electromechanical interaction all the way to the strong coupling regime. That scheme allowed optical detection of electronic signals with effective noise temperatures far below the actual temperature of the mechanical element. On-chip integration of the electrical, mechanical and optical elements is necessary for an implementation of the transduction scheme that is viable for commercial applications. Reliable assembly of a strongly coupled electromechanical device, and inclusion of an optical cavity for enhanced optical readout, are key features of the new platform. Both can be achieved with standard cleanroom fabrication techniques. We will furthermore present ongoing work to couple our transducer to an RF or microwave antenna, for low-noise detection of electromagnetic signals, including sensitive measurements of magnetic fields in an MRI detector.
Suppression of thermomechanical noise is a key feature of electro-optomechanical transducers, and, more generally, hybrid systems involving mechanical degrees of freedom. We have shown that engineering of the phononic density of states allows improved isolation of the relevant mechanical modes from their thermal bath , enabling coherence times sufficient to realize quantum-coherent optomechanical coupling. This proves the potential of the employed platform for complex transducers all the way into the quantum regime.
 Bagci et al, Nature 507, 81–85, (06 March 2014)
 Tsaturyan, et al., Optics Express, Vol. 22, Issue 6, pp. 6810-6821 (2014)
Airborne nanoparticles can cause severe harm when inhaled. Therefore, small and cheap portable airborne nanoparticle monitors are highly demanded by authorities and the nanoparticle producing industry. We propose to use nanomechanical resonators to build the next generation cheap and portable airborne nanoparticle sensors. Recently, nanomechanical mass spectrometry was established. One of the biggest challenges of nanomechanical sensors is the low efficiency of diffusion-based sampling. We developed an inertial-based sampling method that enables the efficient sampling of airborne nanoparticles on a nanomechanical sensor operating directly in air. We measured a sampling rate of over 1000 particles per second, for 28 nm silica nanoparticles with a concentration of 380000 #/cm<sup>3</sup>, collected on a 500 nm wide nanomechanical string resonator. We show that it is possible to reach a saturated sampling regime in which 100% of all nanoparticles are captured that are owing in the projection of the nanostring. We further show that it is possible to detect single airborne nanoparticles by detecting 50 nm Au particles with a 250 nm wide string resonator. Our resonators are currently operating in the first bending mode. Mass spectrometry of airborne nanoparticles requires the simultaneous operation in the first and second mode, which can be implemented in the transduction scheme of the resonator. The presented results lay the cornerstone for the realization of a portable airborne nanoparticle mass spectrometer.