Researchers have created a pearl spectrometer for biomedical and military applications

Innovators at Purdue University, USA, have demonstrated light transport-assisted information processing by creating a pearl spectrometer.

Spectrometers probe interactions of matter and light as a function of the electromagnetic spectrum. The new pearl spectrometer could be used in biomedical and military applications, including cancer diagnostics and military gas sensing.

Young Kim, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University, said: “Unfortunately, widespread uses and practical adaptions of spectroscopy are often limited due to the need of conventional spectrometers. The current spectrometers rely on complex device assembly, high-precision alignment and large physical size or dimension, all of which prevent rapid translation into practical applications.

“We discovered that pearls are an ideal natural object for Anderson localisation of light, named after Nobel laureate Philip Anderson, whose concept has been extended to describe how light undergoes on and off resonances inside materials due to their strong scattering.”

Yunsang Kwak, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab at Purdue University, said: “Anderson light localisation offers high randomness that is extremely helpful for compressive sensing, in particular to conduct information processing with a thin and plat form factor, by simply attaching a pearl-like multispectral filter array on a conventional camera.”

Pearl-inspired light localisation in low-dimensional structures can offer an alternative of spectral information processing by hybridising digital and physical properties at a material level. The Purdue University researchers are looking to their new discovery to provide scientists with an idea of hybridising material and digital properties, which could be useful for innovations in biomedical and defence applications.

Kim said: “We do not think that the direct use of a pearl would be a good option for mass production of multispectral filter arrays. Instead, pearls teach us how to design disordered nanostructures of Anderson light localisation to develop a new class of spectral information processing machine.”

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