A joint international research team, including teams from POSTECH of South Korea, Raytheon BBN Technologies, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S., Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology in Spain, and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan, has developed ultrasensitive sensors that can detect microwaves with the highest theoretically possible sensitivity. The research findings are drawing attention as an enabling technology for commercializing next-gen technologies like quantum computers.
Microwave bolometer based on graphene josephson junction. Image credit: Raytheon BBN Technologies and MIT
Microwave is used in a wide range of scientific and technological fields, including mobile communications, radar, and astronomy. Currently, microwave power can be detected using a device called bolometer. A bolometer usually consists of three materials: Electromagnetic absorption material, a material that converts electromagnetic waves into heat, and a material that converts the generated heat into electrical resistance. The bolometer calculates the amount of electromagnetic waves absorbed using the changes in the electrical resistance. Using the semiconductor-based diodes such as silicon and gallium arsenide in the bolometer, the sensitivity of the state-of-the-art commercial bolometer operating at room temperature is limited at 1 nanowatt (1 billionth of a watt) by averaging for a second.