November 29, 2010

Light Through Silicon: The Next Optic Measuring Device

He’s only been here for two months, but already Yule Xiong’s English has improved greatly.

“Everyone is so nice,” he says of Carleton. “I have to work really hard for them.”

With an undergraduate degree in optoelectronics from the Beijing Institute of Technology and a master’s of science in biophotonics from Peking University, Xiong was granted a 2010 President’s Doctoral Fellowship at Carleton.

His existing knowledge of how light works will be very helpful with his current research project: novel nano-scale planar waveguide-based optical sensors, says professor Winnie Ye of the electronics department. In other words: a very small device that measures and analyzes biomedical materials on a micro scale using light.

The sensors will be made out of silicon, says Ye, a material that is much smaller and has greater uses than current fibre-optic systems.

Xiong says he’s very excited for the research–something he loves to do.

“Silicon has been crucial in the micro-electronics industry. So we’re trying to apply the same material systems to photonics, where light carries information instead of electrons,” she says.

Silicon allows Xiong and Ye to work on a much smaller scale. It is approximately five microns, or two per cent of the diameter of a single strand of hair.

Xiong will focus on biomedical materials. He hopes to make a functioning bio-sensing device – something that can measure, detect and identify, among other uses, hazardous and infectious diseases.

“The problem with the current technology is that it takes a very long time and lots of quantity of the sample to determine the presence of infectious diseases.

So Yule’s device, which is very small, will be able to efficiently measure materials where quantities are limited,” says Ye.

Xiong says he’s very excited for the research – something he loves to do. “I am very lucky to come here,” he says. “It’s such an honour to receive such a fellowship.”

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