The mechanical properties of graphene, say the researchers, allow the material to respond to temperature changes incredibly fast, which enables it to measure light at equally speedy rates.
"Graphene offered a tantalizing prospect for ultrasensitive and ultrafast light detection," says Andrew Blaikie, another doctoral student in the lab and lead author of a paper on the research. "It also possesses an unmatched ability to measure nearly any wavelength of light and can withstand much higher temperatures than conventional detectors."
The device's ability to perform at such a wide range of temperatures, say the researchers, is one of its most advantageous qualities when it comes to measuring light. It can operate at room temperature, which allows for critical portability, and it can perform under high heat, which is a benefit that traditional light detectors don't offer, they say.
"Graphene," says Blaikie, "is a thermally stable material that can withstand temperatures over 2,000 degrees Celsius."
Graphene's versatility and ultrasensitive nature, say the researchers, position the nanomechanical bolometer to be a useful tool in many arenas across science, medicine, industrial manufacturing, and astronomy.
"We hope this device will help scientists crack the mysteries of our sun and other stars, improve medical diagnostics through safer thermal X-ray imaging, and help firefighters see better in fires to save more lives," says Benjamín Alemán, a professor of physics and member of the University's Center for Optical, Molecular, and Quantum Science.
The lab currently has a patent pending for the technology. For more, see " A fast and sensitive room-temperature graphene nanomechanical bolometer ."