American Physical Society – Physics Synopsis: Jiggling Graphene

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Anomalous Dynamical Behavior of Freestanding Graphene Membranes

M.L. Ackerman, P. Kumar, M. Neek-Amal, P.M. Thibado, F.M. Peeters, and S.P. Singh

Physical Review Letters 117, 126801 (2016).

Internet-of-Things (IoT) is projected to become a multi-trillion-dollar market, but most applications cannot afford replacing batteries on such a large scale, driving the need for battery alternatives. In this publication, we discovered that freestanding graphene membranes are in perpetual motion when held at room temperature [Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 126801 (2016)]. Surprisingly, the random up-down motion of the membrane does not follow classical Brownian motion, but instead is super-diffusive at short times and sub-diffusive at long times. Furthermore, the velocity probability distribution function is non-Gaussian and follows the heavy-tailed Cauchy-Lorentz distribution, consistent with Levy flights. Molecular dynamics simulations reveal that mechanical buckling is spontaneously occurring, and that this is the mechanism responsible for the anomalous movement. Bucking in this system occurs when the local material suddenly flips from concave to convex. The higher kinetic energy associated with this motion is derived from the surrounding thermal waste heat, and it may be converted into an electrical current and used as the active component of small power generators known as ambient vibration energy harvesters.