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Integrated mid-IR lasers and sensors for IoT

Affordable and reliable laser sensors are becoming the cornerstone of ubiquitous sensor networks in the coming Internet of Things (IoT) era. They are needed in Canada and worldwide for ubiquitous monitoring of greenhouse gas leakage for security, control of hazardous emission and accumulation, and data collection for studies of climate change and human-environment interactions. Laser sensing technology will also penetrate into our daily lives in the next few years. Chip-scale laser spectrometers will enable personal, real-time monitoring of air, water, and  environmental risks, meeting ever increasing personal and public interests in health, security, and impacts of person-environment interactions. Versatile, ultra-compact lasers, functioning as both sensing and communication means, can be integrated into smartphones and various wearable devices to guard our health and guide our environment-friendly activities. Mid-infrared (mid-IR) is an ideal wavelength range for all these applications. It contains signatures of many important molecules, known as molecular fingerprints. Also, recent research progress has shown great penitential of mid-IR for free-space as well as guided-wave communications, indicating that a single tunable source can be reconfigured for both sensing and communication purposes, extremely attractive for wearable technology.

Existing mid-IR systems consist of discrete optical components interconnected applying free-space optics means, which are costly and power demanding. Integrating these components on silicon for a mid-IR system-on-a-chip may lead to orders-of-magnitude reduction in cost and power consumption, as well as unbeatable compactness and lightness for portability, high reliability, and easy integration with electronics. The outcome of this research may scale the IoT infrastructure to enable a safer and greener Canada. It will also place Canadian manufacturers in an advanced position in fast expanding markets of billion dollars for a better high-tech ecosystem and new jobs in Canada.