Researchers leverage graphene’s thermoelectric properties to invent a new radiation detector

Graphene has a number of unique and fairly interesting properties, among which is its ability to turn heat into electricity. Now a group of researchers led by Grigory Skoblin of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has taken this thermoelectric property and turned it into the driving force behind a new type of radiation detector. The details of their research appeared recently in the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing.

  • Graphene was first discovered more than 10 years ago and was thought of as a possible miracle material due to its interesting physical or material properties. However, there were strong fundamental limitations that restricted its widespread use, according to the researchers.
  • Graphene gets most of its useful properties from its material construction. Being composed of only single sheets of carbon makes it versatile enough to be used for various purposes.
  • The researchers built a graphene-based device that they referred to as a bolometer. Standard radiation can heat part of the device and cause electrons in it to move. This, in turn, causes displaced electrons to generate their own electric field, which results in the creation of a voltage difference across the device.
  • The resulting change in voltage is used as a way of detecting or measuring levels of radiation directly. Compared with other devices which take incoming radiation and generate electric currents or resistance changes, this was far more simple.
  • Compared to even other bolometers, the graphene-based solution created by the researchers proved to be a lot simpler. Older versions of this same device, which featured a double layer of graphene, were also not as effective and much harder to scale.
  • So far, the researchers have tested their prototype device with microwave radiation, but they are looking at widening the frequency range in future designs.

The researchers hope that their breakthrough can help them pave the way for mass production of such devices and thereby explore even better options as they go along.

Journal Reference:

Grigory Skoblin, Jie Sun, August Yurgens. GRAPHENE BOLOMETER WITH THERMOELECTRIC READOUT AND CAPACITIVE COUPLING TO AN ANTENNA. Applied Physics Letters, 2018; 112 (6): 063501 DOI: 10.1063/1.5009629

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