Scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have built the world's smallest and best acoustic amplifier. And they did it using a concept that was all but abandoned for almost 50 years. According to a paper published May 13 in Nature Communications, the device is more than 10 times more effective than the earlier versions. The design and future research directions hold promise for smaller wireless technology. Modern cell phones are packed with radios to send and receive phone calls, text messages and high-speed data.
Scientists tried making acoustic radio-frequency amplifiers decades ago, but the last major academic papers from these efforts were published in the 1970s.
The new and improved amplifier is more than 10 times as effective as the versions built in the '70s in a few ways. It can boost signal strength by a factor of 100 in 0.008 inch (0.2 millimeter) with only 36 volts of electricity and 20 milliwatts of power.
[...] So how long until these petite radio parts are inside your phone? Probably not for a while, Eichenfield said. Converting mass-produced, commercial products like cell phones to all acousto-electric technology would require a massive overhaul of the manufacturing infrastructure, he said. But for small productions of specialized devices, the technology holds more immediate promise.
The Sandia team is now exploring whether they can adapt their technology to improve all-optical signal processing, too. They are also interested in finding out if the technology can help isolate and manipulate single quanta of sound, called phonons, which would potentially make it useful for controlling and making measurements in some quantum computers.
[Source]: Sandia Labs
Lisa Hackett, Michael Miller, Felicia Brimigion, et al. Towards single-chip radiofrequency signal processing via acoustoelectric electron–phonon interactions [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22935-1)