New photodetector technology to help advance early detection of health issues like cancer


According to SciTechDaily, researchers at the RMIT University in Australia have developed the world’s first photodetector that can see all shades of light. This breakthrough is expected to help with biomedical imaging, advancing early detection of health issues like cancer.

Photodetectors – used in gaming consoles, optic communications, environmental sensing, safety and security, and also defense-related applications – work by transforming the information carried by light into electrical signals. The usefulness of the photodetector depends upon its working speed, sensitivity to light, and how much of the spectrum they can sense.

The newly developed photodetector is 1000 times slimmer and faster than the smallest commercially available photodetector. The research team at RMIT University scrapped the bundled model and used a nano thin layer – just an atom thick – in the chip. Thus, this proto-device translates light ranging from Ultraviolet to Infrared, making it more sensitive than the human eye.

Ph.D. researcher Vaishnavi Krishnamurthy said that in photodetector technologies making the material slimmer usually came at the cost of performance. “But we managed to engineer a device that acts as a powerful punch despite being thinner than a nanometre which is roughly a million times smaller than the width of the pinhead” (Science Daily). Shrinking the technology could also help deliver smaller, portable medical imaging systems that could be brought into remote areas with ease, compared to the bulky equipment we have today. 

Chief Investigator Associated Professor Sumeet Walia informed that the material used is tin monosulphate – which is cheap, naturally abundant, and thus a boon for electronics. They can also be integrated with CMOS chips. “This material allows the device to be extremely sensitive in low- lighting conditions, making it suitable for low lighting photography across a wide light spectrum” (Science Daily).

These photodetectors can be further developed for effective motion sensing in security cameras at night and also for faster and better storage. “Smaller photodetectors in biomedical imaging equipment could lead to more accurate targeting of cancer cells with radiation therapy,” added Krishnamurthy (The Engineer). 



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