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Automated real-time spectral characterization of phase-change tunable optical filters using a linear variable filter and infrared camera

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posted on 2023-01-11, 22:05 authored by David Bombara, Calum Williams, Stephen Borg, Hyun Jung Kim
Actively tunable optical filters based on chalcogenide phase-change materials (PCMs) are an emerging technology with applications across chemical spectroscopy and thermal imaging. The refractive index of an embedded PCM thin film is modulated through an amorphous-to-crystalline phase transition induced through thermal stimulus. Performance metrics include transmittance, passband center wavelength (CWL), and bandwidth; ideally monitored during operation (in situ) or after a set number of tuning cycles to validate real-time operation. Measuring these aforementioned metrics in real-time is challenging. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) provides the gold-standard for performance characterization, yet is expensive and inflexible -- incorporating the PCM tuning mechanism is not straightforward, hence in situ electro-optical measurements are challenging. In this work, we implement an open-source MATLAB-controlled real-time performance characterization system consisting of an inexpensive linear variable filter (LVF) and mid-wave infrared camera, capable of switching the PCM-based filters while simultaneously recording in situ filter performance metrics and spectral filtering profile. These metrics are calculated through pixel intensity measurements and displayed on a custom-developed graphical user interface in real-time. The CWL is determined through spatial position of intensity maxima along the LVF's longitudinal axis. Furthermore, plans are detailed for a future experimental system that further reduces cost, is compact, and utilizes a near-infrared camera.

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