C. Chen, S. Lee, V.V. Deshpande, G-H. Lee, M. Lekas, K. Shepard & J. Hone, Graphene mechanical oscillators with tunable frequency, Nature Nanotechnology 8, 923–927 (2013) doi:10.1038/nnano.2013.232
Oscillators, which produce continuous periodic signals from direct current power, are central to modern communications systems, with versatile applications including timing references and frequency modulators. However, conventional oscillators typically consist of macroscopic mechanical resonators such as quartz crystals, which require excessive off-chip space. Here, we report oscillators built on micrometre-size, atomically thin graphene nanomechanical resonators, whose frequencies can be electrostatically tuned by as much as 14%. Self-sustaining mechanical motion is generated and transduced at room temperature in these oscillators using simple electrical circuitry. The prototype graphene voltage-controlled oscillators exhibit frequency stability and a modulation bandwidth sufficient for the modulation of radiofrequency carrier signals. As a demonstration, we use a graphene oscillator as the active element for frequency-modulated signal generation and achieve efficient audio signal transmission.