In their paper, the researchers demonstrate the first use of this technique to detect a subthreshold photonic signal.
One possible use being considered is for troops in combat. Army personnel in the field already carry very bulky equipment. It is unfeasible to add the heavy, power-hungry equipment required to enhance a subthreshold signal. Their technique is also applicable in resource-constrained environments or beneath the ocean where people want to monitor very weak signals. It could also be used in volcanic locations or to monitor earthquakes in time to give an alarm.
"We have challenged tradition to detect otherwise undetectable signals with miniscule energy consumption. This can open doors to a totally unexplored and ignored field of noise enhanced signal detection," said Aaryan Oberoi, a graduate student from the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics and co-first author on the paper.
The next step is to demonstrate this technique on a silicon photodiode, which would make the device very scalable. Any state-of-the art sensor can be enhanced by this concept, Das says.
Other authors on the paper, titled "Stochastic Resonance in MoS2 Photodetector," are graduate student Tanushree H Choudhury, materials science and engineering, and Joan Redwing, professor of materials science and engineering and electrical engineering, all of Penn State.
The team has filed a provisional patent application with a full patent to follow. The work was partially funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.