CORDIS - EU research results

Sub-THz Surface Acoustic Waves

Project description

Artificial nanoscale earthquakes enter the sub-terahertz regime

Surface acoustic waves (SAWs) are sound waves that travel parallel to the surface of an elastic material, for example a piezoelectric material. These nanoscale earthquakes are important in fields ranging from optoelectronics to nanometrology and can be found many devices. However, monitoring them in the frequency range of 100 gigahertz – 1 terahertz is currently not possible. The EU-funded STSAW project is developing superlattices for all-optical monitoring of generation, propagation and detection of sub-terahertz SAW(STSAW). The team will use this platform to study the STSAWs’ behaviours and interactions with other material excitations. The testbench and knowledge attained will further Europe’s competitive position in fields including photonics, phononics, optoelectronics, communications and nanometrology.


The rapid development of not only optoelectronics and electrical signal processing for information and communication technologies, but also fundamental/applied science for nanometrology and nanoimaging, requires monitoring coherent surface acoustic waves (SAWs) with deeply sub-optical localization depths in the currently unexplored frequency range of 100 GHz - 1 THz. While bulk acoustic waves can be monitored up to THz frequencies by ultrafast lasers in superlattices (SLs) with nanometer periodicity, the highest SAW frequencies recorded in metallic gratings deposited on surfaces lie below 100 GHz. The use of SLs cleaved along their growth direction for optical SAW excitation has been proposed though not achieved experimentally. The goal of this project is to demonstrate, for the first time, optical monitoring of sub-THz SAWs (STSAWs) by developing original optoacoustic (OA) and acousto-optic (AO) transducers based on such cleaved SLs and an efficient non-thermoelastic OA conversion. Dedicated numerical modeling will optimize the SL design (dispersion characteristics, OA/AO conversion efficiencies) for STSAW propagation, generation and detection. The atomic-precision fabrication of SLs and use of advanced ultrafast pump-probe laser techniques will fulfill this objective. STSAW interactions with charge carriers and 2D materials will be showcased. The project relies on complementarity and knowledge transfer between applicant (numerical modeling, coherent acoustics control) and host institution (SAW theory, laser monitoring of SAWs); it will expand the applicant's experience and skills, shaping the applicant’s career as an independent researcher. Results will be disseminated via networking, conferences and peer-reviewed publications. This project will greatly enhance Europe's technological competitiveness by pioneering controllable STSAWs and providing a platform to explore the fundamentals of OA/AO conversions at picosecond temporal scale and nanometer spatial scale.


Net EU contribution
€ 196 707,84
72085 Le Mans

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Pays de la Loire Pays de la Loire Sarthe
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 196 707,84