World's smallest accelerometer uses graphene

September 03, 2019 //By Julien Happich
NEMS
Researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology have leveraged Graphene’s unique mechanical and electronic properties to design a novel type of accelerometers, two orders of magnitude smaller than today’s silicon-based MEMS accelerometers.

As their paper “Graphene ribbons with suspended masses as transducers in ultra-small nanoelectromechanical accelerometers” published in Nature Electronics reports, suspended double-layer graphene ribbons with attached silicon proof masses can be used as combined spring–mass and piezoresistive transducers.

Here, the transducers are created using processes compatible with large-scale semiconductor manufacturing technologies, yielding NEMS (Nano Electro Mechanical System) accelerometers with a footprint at least two orders of magnitude smaller than conventional state-of-the-art silicon accelerometers, note the authors.


SEM image of an ultra-miniaturized NEMS
accelerometer with bond wires.

“Based on the surveys and comparisons we have made, we can say that this is the smallest reported electromechanical accelerometer in the world” said Xuge Fan, a researcher in the Department for Micro and Nanosystems at KTH.

The accelerometer created by KTH researchers could be used in mobile phones for navigation, mobile games and pedometers, as well as monitoring systems for heart disease and motion-capture wearables that can monitor even the slightest movements of the human body.

“We can scale down components because of the material’s atomic-scale thickness, and it has great electrical and mechanical properties,” Fan explains.

According to Fan, the graphene NEMS could eventually benefit mobile phones for navigation, mobile games and pedometers, as well as monitoring systems for heart disease and motion-capture wearables that can monitor even the slightest movements of the human body.

Other potential uses for these NEMS transducers include ultra-miniaturized NEMS sensors and actuators such as resonators, gyroscopes and microphones. In addition, these NEMS transducers can be used as a system to characterize the mechanical and electromechanical properties of graphene. Indeed, the researchers report they were able to extract the Young’s modulus values of double-layer graphene and show that the graphene ribbons have significant built-in stresses.

KTH Royal Institute of Technology - www.kth.se

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