Surpassing fundamental limits of oscillators using nonlinear resonators

L. G. Villanueva*, E. Kenig, R. B. Karabalin, M. H. Matheny, Ron Lifshitz, M. C. Cross, M. L. Roukes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In its most basic form an oscillator consists of a resonator driven on resonance, through feedback, to create a periodic signal sustained by a static energy source. The generation of a stable frequency, the basic function of oscillators, is typically achieved by increasing the amplitude of motion of the resonator while remaining within its linear, harmonic regime. Contrary to this conventional paradigm, in this Letter we show that by operating the oscillator at special points in the resonator's anharmonic regime we can overcome fundamental limitations of oscillator performance due to thermodynamic noise as well as practical limitations due to noise from the sustaining circuit. We develop a comprehensive model that accounts for the major contributions to the phase noise of the nonlinear oscillator. Using a nanoelectromechanical system based oscillator, we experimentally verify the existence of a special region in the operational parameter space that enables suppressing the most significant contributions to the oscillator's phase noise, as predicted by our model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number177208
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - 26 Apr 2013


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