An Auto-Calibrated Refractometer for Single-Shot Measurement of Ultra-Fast Phenomena

Background Materials index of refraction (IOR) is a sensitive measure to variations of density, charge-state, conductivity, temperature, chemical composition, and microscopic structure. IOR measurements are common in a wide range of industrial and research applications, including materials processing, biological membrane development, pollution detection, semiconductor manufacturing, glucose monitoring, and nanofabrication.

Invention Description This invention is offers an ultra-fast (femtosecond time-scale), microscopic, and sensitive measurements of the dynamic changes of the index of refraction of materials. The system is simple and reduces the need for laser optics that are required by competitive products. This technology allows precise (1x10-5 accuracy), auto-calibrated (ensures TIR measurements close to the critical angle), and offers spatial and temporal resolution. Th technique employed by this technology is non-interferometric, so it is robust and usable in a field situation


Precise (1x10-5 accuracy) Auto-calibrated (ensures TIR measurements close to the critical angle) Spatial and temporal resolution


Total internal reflection (TIR) allows for sensitivity index of refraction measurements of not only solids and liquids, but of gases and even low-density plasmas. Light source is a broadband optical pulse Use of an auto-calibration technique, allowing for high single-shot device sensitivity related to "far field" measurements Use of not only the amplitude, but also the phase of the signal Spectral and temporal resolution of the signal

Market Potential/Applications This technology can be used where measurement of intermediate range of index changes through an ultra-fast, local, and compact device would be needed. Possible uses include optical switches, remote sensors to track contamination of air, thermocouples, measuring nano-materials, and even biological processes such as protein folding.

The diversity of applications comes from the fact that when any chemical, mass, or gas undergoes a physical alteration such as a temperature change, the index of refraction will also change. This can be mapped against the temperature change, making the refractometer an extremely accurate measuring device. Thus, this technology could have value in any situation where precise measuring of material index of refraction is needed.

Development Stage Lab/bench prototype

Inventor(s): Todd Ditmire

Type of Offer: Licensing

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