The mid-infrared (mid-IR) wavelength range is an emerging and important new topic for frontier research. Its general importance relates to a multitude of mid-IR industrial and biomedical sensor applications. Chemical finger prints of most complex molecules such as those found in food, tissue or catalytic compounds all have vibrational spectra in the mid-IR, thus identifiable through mid-IR spectroscopy. Incidentally, also the fundamental absorption bands of gas molecules are located in the mid-IR enabling novel instrumentation for mid-IR gas spectroscopy at small concentrations relevant for applications like “leak-tests” or remote sensing of greenhouse gases.
The main obstacle for the exploitation of the mid-IR optical window has been a historical lack of efficient mid-IR excitation light sources and sensitive mid-IR detectors/imaging devices. In Mid-TECH we have gathered the best European academic and industrial partners to show that in a combined effort, both technological short comings can be overcome paving the way for novel instrumentation for industry and society. Key elements are novel semiconductor-based Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCLs), rugged mid-IR Optical Parametrical Oscillators combined with novel, record “low noise” mid-IR upconversion detection and imaging. These two building blocks will be implemented for cancer diagnostics, for combustion analysis and absorption/DIAL spectroscopy.
Since we are combining frontier research within different mid-IR areas, we do not at present have the necessary skilled researchers knowing the combined mid-IR enabling components. It is a main goal of Mid-TECH to train 15 ESRs to an outstanding level where, after their study, they can act as Europe’s new cross-sectorial technical experts in mid-IR technology and, at the same time, fill in a much needed link between academia and industry. This is realised through entrepreneurial courses and secondments between the Mid-TECH partners.