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Less gold is sometimes better

infrared laboratory at the TU Vienna © Vienna University of Technology, Photo Romana Maalouf

Possible applications range from astrophysics to virus detection. This new type of gold absorber can directly convert about half of the energy from infrared rays into heat, which is an impressively high proportion. This is done very evenly over an extremely wide range of wavelengths, from 2 µm to more than 20 µm, according to Niklas Luhmann, a doctoral student in the research group of Prof. Silvan Schmid of the Institute for Sensor and Actuator Systems of the Vienna University of Technology.
The heat is then dissipated, causing the detector to change its oscillation behaviour. "It is a bit like coating a guitar string with a thin layer of gold and placing the guitar in the sun," Luhmann adds. "The string gets warmer, expands and changes its sound. And that is what we can measure." In this way, the Institute for Sensor and Actuator Systems is currently developing novel infrared sensors that can provide a variety of important research results. The university succeeded in producing an ultra-thin gold layer measuring only two nanometres using a special technical trick. In this way, about half of the radiation energy can be captured and converted into heat - in a completely uniform manner, over a wide range of the infrared spectrum.
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