MSE Research Team Wins Seed Grant Funding for Novel Sensor Technology

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Examples of finished metamaterial surfaces: (top) SEM micrographs and (bottom) optical images of SERS substrates with varying nanoscale structure, optimized for different end-user applications.

MSE Associate Professor Oded Rabin along with MSE Professor and Clark School Associate Dean for Research, Robert Briber, and MSE Assistant Research Scientist Xin Zhang have recently received funding via the University of Maryland Ventures Seed Grant Program for their proposal on “Nanoparticle Array with Tunable Nanoparticle Size and Separation.” This grant will support the development of a prototype fiber-optic sensor to detect and analyze individual chemical compounds based on patented UMD technology. This team’s sensor utilizes a nanoparticle array as a surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) substrate: the nanoparticles – made of silver, aluminum or, in this case, gold – will capture a chemical on their surface and boost the efficiency of the Raman light-scattering process. If successful, the sensor will be incorporated in a hand-held spectrometer and will be more reliable and versatile, easily portable and less expensive compared to current Raman analysis methods. “We have witnessed in the 21st century the miniaturization of spectrometers for field analysis and homeland security applications,” comments Dr. Rabin, “however, the SERS technique is still confined to the laboratory environment.” The invention, which has been a few years in the making, will finally move out of the laboratory and become commercially available.

This UMD research team, which also includes graduate student Kunyi Zhang and alum Romaine Isaacs, is working in conjunction with AccuStrata Inc. – a research and development firm specializing in optics, semi-conductors and thin film technology, which started at the University of Maryland College Park business incubator in 2010.

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Published December 12, 2016