Shape-Engineered Nanoscale Thermocouples


Oct 28 2019: Antenna-coupled infrared detectors convert infrared radiation into electrical signals and are valuable to numerous applications from thermal imaging to energy harvesting. The radiation received by the exposed antennas causes an antenna current that heats a rectifying element capable of converting heat into an electrical signal. Nano-thermocouples (NTC’s) are a popular candidate for these rectifying elements as they operate without the need for an external power supply. The response of the detector depends on how well the antenna converts the induced radiation into heat, and how well the NTC converts this heat into electrical signal. Therefore, the response is often limited by the heat loss from the NTC to the surface below it. This technology alters this surface in a way that minimizes heat loss from the NTC, ultimately increasing the devices’ response by a factor of 100. Additionally, these devices can utilize a novel mono-metallic thermocouple that reduces the manufacturing complexity of such devices.


2013 :Infrared detectors can be created using antennas attached to a nanowire thermocouple formed out of a single metal.  LWIR (Long-wave Infrared ), Thermal imaging (especially sensitive room-temperature thermal detection, i.e. black-body detection), and hyperspectral applications are possible by forming a thermopile out of the devices.  Manufacturing is simplified over bimetallic thermocouples where standard nanoimprint lithography tools can be used.  This technology can also be used to embed radiant energy scavenging devices into integrated circuits.

By generating a thermocouple response from a mono-metallic device, which uses cross-sectional shape modification instead of dissimilar metals, we envision a radically simpler and cheaper manufacturing process.  These devices can then be incorporated into Infrared detectors which are used by first responders, emergency services personnel, and the military.  IR detectors provide the ability to detect the presence of gases or objects without using the visible light spectrum.  Similarly these devices can be used in hyperspectral images which pull in information about a scene over a wide set of wavelengths.  Hyperspectral imanges are used in agriculture, geographic, and in situations where IR detection requires augmentation.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Richard Cox
Director, Licensing & Business Development
University of Notre Dame
(574) 631-5158
Wolfgang Porod
Gary Bernstein
Alexei Orlov
Gergo Szakmany
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