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Low-Power Photothermal Self-Oscillation of Bimetallic Nanowires

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journal contribution
posted on 24.05.2017 by Roberto De Alba, T. S. Abhilash, Richard H. Rand, Harold G. Craighead, Jeevak M. Parpia
We investigate the nonlinear mechanics of a bimetallic, optically absorbing SiN–Nb nanowire in the presence of incident laser light and a reflecting Si mirror. Situated in a standing wave of optical intensity and subject to photothermal forces, the nanowire undergoes self-induced oscillations at low incident light thresholds of <1 μW due to engineered strong temperature-position (Tz) coupling. Along with inducing self-oscillation, laser light causes large changes to the mechanical resonant frequency ω0 and equilibrium position z0 that cannot be neglected. We present experimental results and a theoretical model for the motion under laser illumination. In the model, we solve the governing nonlinear differential equations by perturbative means to show that self-oscillation amplitude is set by the competing effects of direct Tz coupling and 2ω0 parametric excitation due to T–ω0 coupling. We then study the linearized equations of motion to show that the optimal thermal time constant τ for photothermal feedback is τ → ∞ rather than the previously reported ω0 τ = 1. Lastly, we demonstrate photothermal quality factor (Q) enhancement of driven motion as a means to counteract air damping. Understanding photothermal effects on nano- and micromechanical devices, as well as nonlinear aspects of optics-based motion detection, can enable new device applications as oscillators or other electronic elements with smaller device footprints and less stringent ambient vacuum requirements.