Graphene Drumheads Could Lead to New Sensors for Mobile Phones

Researchers envision technique could be used for quantum memory for quantum computing

2 min read
Graphene Drumheads Could Lead to New Sensors for Mobile Phones
Illustration: TU Delft

Just over two years ago, we reported on research out of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland that discovered graphene could be manipulated to act like a drumhead giving it electromechanical properties.

Following along this line of research, a team of scientists at the TU Delft’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in the Netherlands has demonstrated that using this drumhead principal for graphene could lead to new types of sensors for mobile phones, or even quantum memory used in quantum computing.

In research published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the Dutch research used the graphene as a mirror in optomechanical cavity and shot microwave-frequency light at it to essentially bang the graphene drumhead.

“In optomechanics you use the interference pattern of light to detect tiny changes in the position of an object, explains Dr. Vibhor Singh, one of the researchers, in a news release. “In this experiment, we shot microwave photons at a tiny graphene drum. The drum acts as a mirror: by looking at the interference of the microwave photons bouncing off the drum, we are able to sense minute changes in the position of the graphene sheet of only 17 femtometers, nearly 1/10000th of the diameter of an atom.”

The researchers used the radiation pressure from the photons on the graphene drumhead to create an amplifier in which microwave signals such as those used in mobile phones are amplified by the mechanical motion of the drum.

In the short video below, you can see how the mechanism works. The light comes in and moves the graphene drumhead creating a resonator that produces a signal.

The researchers also think that this technology could be used as memory for future quantum computers

“One of the long-term goals of the project is explore 2D crystal drums to study quantum motion,” said research group leader Dr. Gary Steele in the release. “If you hit a classical drum with a stick, the drumhead will start oscillating, shaking up and down. With a quantum drum, however, you cannot only make the drumhead move up and then down, but also make it into a ‘quantum superposition’, in which the drum head is both moving up and moving down at the same time.” Steele added: “This ‘strange’ quantum motion is not only of scientific relevance, but also could have very practical applications in a quantum computer as a quantum ‘memory chip’.”

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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