Integrated miniature planar arrays of optical sensors for detecting specific biochemicals in extremely small quantities have been proposed. An array of this type would have an area of about 1 cm2. Each element of the array would include an optical microresonator that would have a high value of the resonance quality factor (Q ≈ 107). The surface of each microresonator would be derivatized to make it bind molecules of a species of interest, and such binding would introduce a measurable change in the optical properties of the microresonator. Because each microresonator could be derivatized for detection of a specific biochemical different from those of the other microresonators, it would be possible to detect multiple specific biochemicals by simultaneous or sequential interrogation of all the elements in the array. Moreover, the derivatization would make it unnecessary to prepare samples by chemical tagging.
Such interrogation would be effected by means of a grid of row and column polymer-based optical waveguides that would be integral parts of a chip on which the array would be fabricated. The row and column polymer-based optical waveguides would intersect at the elements of the array (see figure). At each intersection, the row and column waveguides would be optically coupled to one of the microresonators. The polymer-based waveguides would be connected via optical fibers to external light sources and photodetectors. One set of waveguides and fibers (e.g., the row waveguides and fibers) would couple light from the sources to the resonators; the other set of waveguides and fibers (e.g., the column waveguides and fibers) would couple light from the microresonators to the photodetectors. Each microresonator could be addressed individually by row and column for measurement of its optical transmission. Optionally, the chip could be fabricated so that each microresonator would lie inside a microwell, into which a microscopic liquid sample could be dispensed.
This work was done by Vladimir Iltchenko, Lute Maleki, Ying Lin, and Thanh Le of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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Refer to NPO-43164, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.