Photonics Science and Technologies for Security, Energy and Healthcare Applications

What stands between physicians being able to diagnose diseases easier and faster? Or the speed at which security threats are detected? For Yong Chen’s team of researchers, the answer is light. Or, more specifically, the need for a deeper exploration of new ways to use photonics science and technologies for healthcare, food safety and biosecurity systems.

In recent years, the field of optics and photonics has seen breakthroughs in the science and technology of generating, controlling and detecting light and light particles. Current sensors present challenges in the areas of time needed to produce results and overall accuracy.

Chen’s proposal aims to develop a multidisciplinary approach to create photonics-based pathogen sensors that can work with food and fluid samples to bridge the gap between university-scale research and real-world deployment, offering enhanced performance at a lower cost. Chen’s team builds on and leverages Purdue’s prominent expertise and across a number of departments on campus.

“Since the announcement of the Big Idea Challenge, there are already several research projects that we have worked on together which would not have happened if we were not brought together by this program,” says Chen.

The team plans to pilot new photonics science and technologies by working with existing institutional partners and potential customers through Discovery Park centers and Purdue’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The team hopes these new insights will help shape systems and technologies for better public healthcare, biosecurity and food safety.

The result? Providing game-changing, widely deployable, photonics-based technological needs and solutions that will address several grand challenges in today’s society. Chen’s team envisions high-performance, “smart” sensors and sensor networks that can detect a wide range of threats in various security applications, efficient and low-cost solar/thermal photovoltaics (PV) for sustainable and clean energy and individualized, early diagnostics and therapy that may dramatically lower the cost of healthcare, all at the speed of light.

Back to Projects

“Since the announcement of the Big Idea Challenge, there are already several research projects that we have worked on together which would not have happened if we were not brought together by this program,” says Chen.

Read full Purdue Newsroom press release

Team Photos

Principal Investigator: Yong P. Chen, professor of physics and astronomy and of electrical and computer engineering; Director, Purdue Quantum Center

Team: Vladimir M. Shalaev, Bob and Anne Burnett Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Scientific Director for Nanophotonics, Birck Nanotechnology Center; Alexandra Boltasseva, professor of electrical and computer engineering; Peter Bermel, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; Rakesh Agrawal, Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering; David Nolte, Edward M. Purcell Distinguished Professor of Physics; Young L. Kim, associate professor of biomedical engineering