Davidson Fellows - 2012 Fellow Saumil Bandyopadhyay


Saumil Bandyopadhyay

$10,000 Scholarship Recipient

Age: 17
Glen Allen, VA
Category: Science
Project Title: “A Novel Frequency-Selective Detector of Light and ß Radiation Implemented with Self-Assembled Quantum Wires: An Application of Quantum-Mechanical Wavefunction and Density-of-States Engineering.”


Saumil invented a novel universal photon and particle detector built using semiconductor nanowires that he self assembled using electrochemistry. It can lock onto desired frequencies (a rare trait among photon detectors) because of density-of-states engineering. In the infrared range, it is at least ten times more sensitive than current state-of-the-art detectors that work at room temperature. This was made possible by quantum-mechanical wavefunction engineering. Room temperature operation is a rarity among infrared detectors, which usually require cooling with liquid nitrogen. Saumil overcame this shortcoming by the use of nanowires. His device is also multifunctional; it can sense the entire electromagnetic spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet and additionally sense beta radiation with enough sensitivity to detect a single beta particle. There is no report of a similar detector in the literature, which makes it unique and novel.

This research has broad impact. Every year, nearly 40,000 individuals die in the United State from car collisions and numerous children are maimed or killed in battle-ridden countries from unexploded mines. At the heart of every car collision avoidance system is an infrared photodetector that detects engine emissions from an oncoming vehicle or even infrared emissions from road hazards such as black ice. Mine detection systems are also built around infrared detection of heat radiated by buried mines. There are other applications as well, such as night vision, forensic science, molecular spectroscopy, monitoring stellar nurseries, missile defense, etc. A recent report states that millions of cheap room-temperature infrared detectors will be needed across the planet to monitor the effects of global warming. These detectors must be inexpensive, robust, rugged, reliable and mass-produced, while having high detectivity to detect the faintest emission, frequency-selectivity to lock on to particular frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum at the exclusion of all other frequencies, and large signal-to-noise ratio in order to operate reliably in a noisy environment.

Saumil has been to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) twice, winning a total of six awards. He is a rising senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies. At this time, he is unsure about what career he wants to pursue, but he hopes to enter a career that involves engineering and scientific research.

Click the links below to view hi-res photos of Saumil:

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Click here to view the full listing of the 2012 Davidson Fellows. 
Click here to view Saumil's press release.

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