The technology out of the Alemán Lab, known as a "graphene nanomechanical bolometer," leverages a new method and an ultrathin material, and could have wide-spread use in everything from astronomy and medicine to fire fighting.
"This tool is the fastest and most sensitive in its class," said Benjamín Alemán, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon and a member of the UO's Center for Optical, Molecular, and Quantum Science and an associate of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact.
Device - Piece - Graphene - Hole - Alternative
The device, which consists of a trampoline-shaped piece of graphene suspended over a hole, offers an alternative to conventional electronic light detectors, like those found in a smartphone's camera. Instead, the Alemán Lab uses a mechanical method to relate absorbed light to small changes in the mechanical resonance frequency of the graphene trampoline.
The way the technology works is similar to the effect of banging a drum on a hot day. As the instrument heats up under the piping sun, the drumhead membrane will expand and its pitch changes -- emitting a different tone than it would at cooler temperatures.
Waves - Thing - Bolometer - Device - Drumhead
The waves of light do the same thing to a mechanical bolometer. As light hits the device's drumhead, the membrane heats up, expands and the vibrational pitch changes. The physicists can track these pitch changes to measure how much light hit the device.
"This is a very new way of detecting light," said David Miller, a doctoral student in the Alemán Lab. "We're using a purely mechanical method to turn light into sound. This has the advantage of being able to see a much broader range of light."
Detectors - Energy - Light - Light - X-rays
Conventional detectors are very reliable at reading high energy light, like visible light or X-rays, but less adept at measuring the longer wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared and radio waves, Miller...
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