Like the flashing of fireflies and ticking of pendulum clocks, the signals emitted by multiple nanoscale oscillators can naturally synchronize under certain conditions, greatly amplifying their output power and stabilizing their signal pattern, according to scientists at the Commerce Departments National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
A simulation made with NIST micromagnetic software shows the interaction of "spin waves" emitted by two nano-oscillators that generate microwave signals. The ability of these tiny spintronic devices to spontaneously synchronize their emissions may lead to smaller, cheaper wireless communications components.
Image credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology
In the Sept. 15 issue of Nature,* NIST scientists describe "locking" the dynamic magnetic properties of two nanoscale oscillators located 500 nanometers apart, boosting the power of the microwave signals given off by the devices. While an individual oscillator has signal power of just 10 nanowatts, the output from multiple devices increases as the square of the number of devices involved. The NIST work suggests that small arrays of 10 nano-oscillators could produce signals of 1 microwatt or more, sufficient for practical use as reference oscillators or directional microwave transmitters and receivers in devices such as cell phones, radar systems and computer chips.
"These nanoscale oscillators could potentially replace much bulkier and expensive components in microwave circuits," says Matthew Pufall, one of the NIST researchers. "This is a significant advance in demonstrating the potential utility of these devices."
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