Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bio-Inspired GE Upconverts 3-8um IR to Visible Green

Nature Photonics published General Electric's paper:

"Towards high-speed imaging of infrared photons with bio-inspired nanoarchitectures"
Andrew D. Pris, Yogen Utturkar, Cheryl Surman, William G. Morris, Alexey Vert, Sergiy Zalyubovskiy, Tao Deng, Helen T. Ghiradella, Radislav A. Potyrailo


"We report an attractive platform of low-thermal-mass resonators inspired by the architectures of iridescent Morpho butterfly scales. In these resonators, the optical cavity is modulated by its thermal expansion and refractive index change, resulting in ‘wavelength conversion’ of mid-wave infrared (3–8 µm) radiation into visible iridescence changes. By doping Morpho butterfly scales with single-walled carbon nanotubes, we achieved mid-wave infrared detection with 18–62 mK noise-equivalent temperature difference and 35–40 Hz heat-sink-free response speed. The nanoscale pitch and the extremely small thermal mass of individual ‘pixels’ promise significant improvements over existing detectors. Computational analysis explains the origin of this thermal response and guides future conceptually new bio-inspired thermal imaging sensor designs."

Transmission electron microscope image of a cross-section
of the Morpho butterfly nanostructure.
ΔR(λ) spectra of the Morpho nanostructure on heating with MWIR radiation. Signal intensity is proportional to the amount of MWIR radiation applied to the nanostructure, with a maximum signal change of ΔR = 5.4% at the steady-state response

See Nature Photonics supplementary materials for the bigger pictures.

Vision Systems Design: Radislav Potyrailo, Principal Scientist at GE Global Research, said that the team is working on the fabrication of photonic nanostructures inspired by Morpho butterfly wing scales, with commercial applications that could reach the market within the next five years. The thermal sensors can sense temperature changes down to 0.02 degrees Celsius, and changes in temperature at a response rate of one fortieth of a second.

Update: GE Research article and Youtube video show the temperature response of "Butterfly light convertor". The official GE PR is here.


  1. It could be another revolution after the microbolometer !

    -yang ni

  2. At first I thought they built an actual sensor based on this structure but I guess they are just studying the butterfly and hope to fabricate such a structure artificially. I don't think the video has anything really to do with the structure they are interested in, except that the dead butterfly is in the field of view. Kind of deceptive PR I think.

    Nevertheless, got our attention,didn't it. And the structure's potential is interesting.

  3. Yes, very interesting! The color mapping seems to correspond well to what we'd expect from temperatures. Night vision goggles for everyone!


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