Editorial Feature

Characterisation of 2D Nanomaterials on Phototonic Chips

A novel optoelectronic system has been developed that integrates 2D nanomaterials suspended in microfluids on a photonic chip.  The technology has countless applications and may revolutionise the way future computer chips are made, making them faster and more efficient.


Optoelectronic technology is a broad term that encompasses devices using light and electricity that source, generate or control light; acting as electric-light or light-electric transducers.  Photonic microchips integrate multiple photonic functions, using optical wavelengths to carry information; offering improvements in efficiency and incorporation with traditional semiconductor chips.


Microfluidics involve the behaviour of tiny volumes of liquids that are contained in sub-millimetre vessels.  Typical applications of this technology are printing and DNA chips; recently, microfluid devices that can detect sweat were developed by a team at Eindhoven University.

Combining nano-assembly and photonic chips

New research at The University of Exeter combines dynamically reconfigurable nanomaterials (graphene and graphene oxide) integrated into a microfluidic system with a silicon photonic circuit.  Manipulation of the nanomaterial was possible via electric and optical means and new methods in spectroscopy were invented to aid in its characterisation.

Enhancing Raman Spectroscopy

Raman Spectroscopy measures the spectra of scattered light to provide information about molecular composition.  A major challenge in this field is the ability to characterise the dynamic 2D-3D process in-situ.  Due to the low concentrations of nano-particles and interference from the fluid phase, the use of Raman spec spectroscopy was not thought possible.

Here, graphene associated Raman signals were enhanced to allow characterisation of the nanoparticles on chip using RenishawTM 1000 and Horiba RamanTM systems.  Additionally, nanoparticles were simultaneously spatially manipulated by laser and analysed by Raman spectroscopy.

The photonic circuit coupled to a microfluidic layer integrating dynamically reconfigurable 2D material metastructures.

Future Applications

This research exposes numerous opportunities for the development of low-power, compact systems in multi-functional light-management devices such as light emitting sources, tuneable optical filters and nanoantenna phased arrays; as well its potential use in microchips.

A key breakthrough is the ability to monitor and manipulate nanoparticle flakes in-situ by spectroscopy, a technique that has future applications in particle alignment and distribution control.  These novel techniques have laid the foundation for other groups to manufacture similar chips, perhaps with different combinations of components, to create exciting advancements in optoelectronics.


  1. Behabtu, N. et al. Spontaneous high-concentration dispersions and liquid crystals of graphene. Nat. Nanotechnol. 5, 406–411 (2010).
  2. Hogan, B. T. et al. Dynamic in-situ sensing of fluid-dispersed 2D materials integrated on microfluidic Si chip. Sci. Rep. 7, 42120 (2017).
  3. Nie, C., Frijns, A., Zevenbergen, M. & Toonder, J. Den. An integrated flex-microfluidic-Si chip device towards sweat sensing applications. Sensors Actuators, B Chem. 227, 427–437 (2016).

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