Welcome to the Alemán Láb

Welcome to the Alemán Lab.  We are an experimental physics group working loosely within the boundaries of condensed matter; our interests range from micrometer and nanometer-scale optical, mechanical, and electronic systems to spin in the solid-state (spintronics) and materials science.  It is our mission to use physics as a platform to unravel the mysteries of the universe and to develop new methods, knowledge, or technologies that find useful and beneficial applications in our world.

This scanning electron microscope (SEM) image shows our graphene “trampoline”, which we’ve tinted in green. The trampoline is fully suspended and attached to the surrounding frame by four tethers. Like a full-size trampoline, the graphene version can vibrate. We use changes in the vibrations to measure light.

Is it possible to hear light? While only a single-atom thick and about the width of a tiny bacterium, our graphene “trampoline” (pictured above) CAN HEAR LIGHT. But is the trampoline just a scientific curiosity, or is it useful? Our graphene trampoline can detect light faster and more sensitively than the world’s best electronic eyes (photodetectors). It can see nearly any color of light, from UV light to thermal radiation and even radio waves! And get this, it works in really hot places, even above 1000 degrees!! Someday soon, we hope our trampolines will help scientists crack the mysteries of our Sun and other stars, improve medical diagnostics through safer thermal “x-ray” imaging, and help firefighters see better in fires to save more lives. Want to read about how our disruptive technology works? You can also watch a cool video about it here.


April 11th, 2019: Take a look at the Around-the-O article or the AAAS EurekAlert article about our new technique to make artificial atoms.

Read the Oregon Quarterly cover article about the Alemán Lab, The North Star Project, and a bit about Benjamín’s life.

Recent Publications:

  • As a first step in a new quest to cure blindness, we grew retinal neurons on carbon nanotube forests. Normally, neurons are quite picky about where they will grow. Did they like our carbon nanotubes? To find out, read our paper published in the journal Micromachines
  • We made a device that can “hear” light and published the results in the journal Nature Communications. We call our device a Graphene Nanomechanical Bolometer (GNB). With the GNB we are able to detect really dim light very quickly. Our GNB is the fastest, most sensitive room-temperature bolometer in the world. Congrats to Andrew Blaikie and the rest of team!
  • When playing the world’s smallest drum (made from graphene) using a strobed, focused laser, we ask the question: is the laser’s optical force local, or does it spread out over the whole drum? To find out the answer and to see some of our surprising discoveries, check out our new paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters. Our paper was also Editor’s Pick. Congrats to David Miller!
  • We have nanofabricated quantum emitter artificial atoms in 2D hexagonal boron nitride. Now we will be able to put one of these artificial atoms anywhere we want, like in photonic circuits or mechanical resonators, or we could use them in new quantum information and sensing technologies! The paper describing our findings was published in the journal Nano Letters. Congrats to Josh Ziegler, Rachael Klaiss (her first paper) and the rest of the team! This is also our first paper with our collaborator Prof. Viva Horowitz of Hamilton College.
  • We can control the shape of a single-atom thick drum by cutting it. This work could lead to better mass detectors, to detect things like atoms, molecules, or harmful viruses. Read all the details in our recent paper (IEEE). Congrats to David Miller, Andrew Blaikie, and Brittany Carter (her first paper!!!).
  • We just submitted our paper on the graphene nanomechanical bolometer. Using the bolometer, we are able to detect really dim light very quickly. Our bolometer is the fastest, most sensitive room-temperature bolometer in the world. Congrats to Andrew Blaikie and the rest of team! (arXiv)
  • Together Ramesh Jasti’s chemistry group, we have built and explored the properties of a new crystalline material made from molecular Cheerios (cylcoparaphenylene nanohoops) The crystals are fluorescent and flexible, and potential uses range from fundamental physics and biology to medicine and electronics. The work was published in Nano Letters (Nano Letters, ChemRxiv) 
  • Josh Ziegler just published his work on a new atom-like defect he found in a boron nitride nanococoon. The defect emits single photons at a time! The story appears in Nano Letters: (Nano Letters, )