New Amplifier Design Reaches for PerfectionCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 17, 2012 01:41PM
Weak signals, like those used to or found when studying the Universe and quantum mechanics, are not very useful to scientists because they are too weak to analyze. To solve this problem, amplifiers are used to make the signals bigger, but there is a risk when amplifying a signal of also introducing noise. Transistor amplifiers, which operate on a wide range of frequencies, have this problem, but parametric amplifiers produce a minimum of noise. Unfortunately parametric amplifiers only respond to a small range of frequencies. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have created a new kind of amplifier which combines the best of these two amplifier designs, and hope it will reshape how we view the Universe on its largest and smallest scales.
By using superconductors, the researchers were able to create a parametric amplifier that responds to a frequency range 10 times greater than comparable amplifiers, without destroying the signal with noise. The focus was just on frequencies used to detect astronomical objects like distant galaxies and black holes, but the researchers are confident the design can be tweaked to shift the frequency range to other areas, like those used for quantum mechanical experiments.
The potential for this amplifier truly cannot be known until people start using it as amplifiers are required for so much already. The use of superconductors may keep these out of the home for a while though, as few homes will have the technology needed to keep temperatures low enough to maintain superconductivity. However, technologies like quantum computers that are still being developed in laboratories may benefit from this.