Researchers in Manchester and Cambridge show graphene’s potential for superfast broadband
Graphene, the magic material that has the science world buzzing, has been shown to be a potential accelerator for a future high-speed Internet.
The substance is strong, flexible and impermeable, but its greatest properties lie in it being the thinnest material known with stunning conductivity. It is this final attribute that has attracted attention to graphene as a potential successor to silicon in electronic devices, but new research has shown photonic properties that were not realised before.
Nanostructures Make Light Work
A team of researchers at the universities of Manchester and Cambridge have been looking at ways to improve the absorption of light by graphene. In its natural state, the material only absorbs three percent of light falling on it. Despite this, it has been shown acting in a 10Gbps optical communication link.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers show that, by combining graphene with plasmonic nanostructures, acting as minutely thin wires, the efficiency of graphene-based photodetectors can be increased by up to 20 times. In addition, the wavelength and polarisation of absorbed light can be altered by using nanostructures of different geometries.
“Such graphene devices can be incredibly fast, tens and potentially hundreds of times faster than communication rates in the fastest Internet cables. This is due to the unique nature of electrons in graphene, their high mobility and velocity,” the researchers claim.
Nobel Prize winners Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov are part of the team and were the discoverers of graphene in 2004. Since then, IBM has demonstrated how the material can be used for minute chips in wireless devices, the University of California has created a miniature, incredibly fast optical data transmitter using graphene as a modulator to switch a light source on and off, and Samsung has demonstrated a 25-inch touch screen coated in the material.
The story of graphene seems to extend monthly and Novoselov, who works with the Manchester University team, said, “The technology of graphene production matures day by day, which has an immediate impact both on the type of exciting physics which we find in this material, and on the feasibility and the range of possible applications.”