Research Foundation News

September 15, 2020

Patented innovations offer new approaches to optical sensing

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – New patented technologies from engineers at Purdue University are designed to improve the performance of handheld optical sensors used for food safety detection and water quality analysis.

The Purdue researchers developed a hybrid plasmonic thin-film, two-phase vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) with controllable metal pillar density with tunable diameters.

“Metamaterials as plasmonic nanoresonators with novel functionalities are attractive for various device applications including nanophotonic circuits, biomedical sensors, photocatalysis technologies and photovoltaics devices,” said Haiyan Wang, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “Through tailoring material and geometrical parameters of such nanostructured building blocks, light–matter interactions can be manipulated for selective responses.”

The Purdue team also developed a framework for processing large-scale nanohole frameworks. Wang said each of the technologies can be used with optical sensing systems.

“Our innovations provide exciting opportunities for optical sensing,” Wang said. “Our thin film technologies provide new materials platforms to manipulate light and matter interactions for enhanced optical sensing sensitivity for applications such as food safety, biomedical sensing and photonic devices.”

wang-nanocomposite Researchers at Purdue developed a hybrid plasmonic thin film two-phase vertically aligned nanocomposite (VAN) with controllable metal pillar density with tunable diameters. (Image provided)

Wang said that compared to other single- or double-phase plasmonic materials, this technology is relatively simple as it is a one-step growth method and can produce two-phase nanocomposites with high crystalline quality that enables superior and reliable material performance.

“This technology is flexible and tunable in terms of material selectivity, density of secondary phase and nanopillar dimensions, and the film can be scaled up and integrated with other thin film devices as desired,” Wang said.

This work is currently funded by the National Science Foundation.

The innovators worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent their technologies.

The innovators and OTC are looking for partners to continue developing their technology. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact Will Buchanan of OTC at and mention track code 2019-WANG-68676.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office is located in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. In fiscal year 2020, the office reported 148 deals finalized with 225 technologies signed, 408 disclosures received and 180 issued U.S. patents. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. In 2020, IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Contact for more information.      

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, 

Haiyan Wang,

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