Studying Synchronicity with Nanoelectromechanical Oscillators

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The Roukes group observes the complex patterns in a group of nanoelectromechanical oscillators to glean new insights on network behavior.

Roukes Group's Nanoelectromechanical Oscillators

March 7, 2019

The world is comprised many types of networks in varying sizes -- from power grids to neurons. Scientists have been intrigued by the ways in which individual parts (or nodes) of a network behave, syncing up or out of rhythm with each other. Establishing a better understanding of how and why nodes move out of sync from each other -- some in very complex patterns -- will allow us to develop effective means of controlling and remedying networks.

The Roukes group and collaborators sought to investigate this phenomenon by creating a network of nonlinear nanoelectromechanical (NEMS) oscillators with high degrees of control and resolution. They "examined the network dynamics in detail throughout parameter space and showed experimentally that a simple network of oscillators can reproduce the predictions of theoretical models with explicit complex interactions." Their exciting results were recently published in the Science article, "Exotic states in a simple network of nanoelectromechanical oscillators."

As quoted in Caltech's feature article, "Fireflies, Heart Beats, and the Science of Sync", lead author Matthew Matheny explains, "'we didn't know what we were going to see, but what these experiments are telling us is that you can get complexity out of a very simple system. This was something that was hinted at before but not shown experimentally until now.'"

Michael Roukes is Frank J. Roshek Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering and founding director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute. The Science publication was authored by Matthew H. Matheny, Jeffrey Emenheiser, Warren Fon, Airlie Chapman, Anastasiya Salova, Martin Rohden, Jarvis Li, Mathias Hudoba de Badyn, Márton Pósfai, Leonardo Duenas-Osorio, Mehran Mesbahi, James P. Crutchfield, M. C. Cross, Raissa M. D’Souza4, and Michael L. Roukes. Device fabrication for this project was conducted in the Kavli Nanoscience Institute's cleanroom facilities.