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Graphene opens up new applications for tiny resonators

High-temperature operation and tunability could bring microelectromechanical resonators to space and beyond

by Dexter Johnson, special to C&EN
March 12, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 11

Illustration of a single layer of graphene laid over a circular drumhead carved out of a piece of silicon with two electrodes connected to each end.
Credit: Adapted from Nano Lett.
A resonator is made of a sheet of graphene on top of a silicon substrate.

A range of sensing and communications technologies, such as satellites, already rely on tiny devices called resonators. These resonators operate like the skin of a drum, vibrating at certain frequencies when struck by stimuli, such as molecules or photons. But engineers have faced limits in the temperatures these components can withstand and the range of frequencies that they can pick up. Now, scientists at Case Western University have constructed resonators out of a single layer of graphene that can withstand high temperatures and operate across a broad range of frequencies (Nano Lett. 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b04685). Philip Feng and colleagues carved circular drumheads 3–5 µm in diameter out of silicon and then placed flakes of graphene across the openings. Their devices have an unprecedentedly broad tuning range of 300%, Feng says. Also, they can function at temperatures that exceed 900 °C, opening up myriad additional applications for resonators that can operate in harsh environments or in space.


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