The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has demonstrated a novel chip-scale instrument made of carbon nanotubes that may simplify absolute measurements of laser power, especially the light signals transmitted by optical fibers in telecommunications networks.
The prototype device, a miniature version of an instrument called a cryogenic radiometer, is a silicon chip topped with circular mats of carbon nanotubes standing on end.* The mini-radiometer builds on NIST's previous work using nanotubes, the world's darkest known substance, to make an ultraefficient, highly accurate optical power detector,** and advances NIST's ability to measure laser power delivered through fiber for calibration customers.***
"This is our play for leadership in laser power measurements," project leader John Lehman says. "This is arguably the coolest thing we've done with carbon nanotubes. They're not just black, but they also have the temperature properties needed to make components like electrical heaters truly multifunctional."
NIST: 'Nanotubes on a Chip' May Simplify Optical Power Measurements