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Swedish researchers unveil world's smallest accelerometer

By Brooks Hays
Scientists suggests the world's smallest accelerometer could be used to create tiny medical devices. Photo by KTH
Scientists suggests the world's smallest accelerometer could be used to create tiny medical devices. Photo by KTH

Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Engineers in Sweden have developed the world's smallest accelerometer using graphene. The accelerometer could be used to create new wearable technologies for use in medicine, fitness and gaming.

"Based on the surveys and comparisons we have made, we can say that this is the smallest reported electromechanical accelerometer in the world," Xuge Fan, a researcher at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, said in a news release.

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"We can scale down components because of the material's atomic-scale thickness, and it has great electrical and mechanical properties," Fan said.

The researchers described the new nano-electromechanical system, or NEM, this week in the journal Nature Electronics.

To develop the tiny actuator, scientists needed to create an ultra-small, sensitive transducer. Researchers built the transducer by embedding double-layer graphene ribbons in silicon. The transducer utilizes graphene's conductive properties to convert energy from one type to another.

Graphene's benefits are well-documented. The atomically thin carbon sheets are exceptionally strong, flexible and conductive.

"We can scale down components because of the material's atomic-scale thickness, and it has great electrical and mechanical properties," Fan said. "We created a piezoresistive NEMS accelerometer that is dramatically smaller than any MEMS accelerometers available today, but retains the sensitivity these systems require."

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The new technology could be used in mobile phones for navigation, mobile games and pedometers. The device could also inspire new types of monitoring systems for heart disease and motion-capture wearables. Scientists suggest the nano-scale transducer could also be used to create sensors and actuators for resonators, gyroscopes and microphones.

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