Miracle material graphene could deliver Internet one hundred times faster

July 12, 2013, University of Bath

Miracle material graphene could deliver internet one hundred times faster
Researchers look at new ways to use graphene in telecommunications.
(Phys.org) —The use of graphene in telecommunications could dramatically accelerate internet speeds by up to a hundred times, according to new research by scientists in our Department of Physics.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers from the Centre for Graphene Science at the Universities of Bath and Exeter have demonstrated for the first time incredibly short optical response rates using graphene, which could pave the way for a revolution in telecommunications.

Every day large amounts of information is transmitted and processed through such as optical fibres, and lasers. Signals are sent by photons at and processed using optical switches, which convert signals into a series of light pulses.

Ordinarily optical switches respond at rate of a few picoseconds – around a trillionth of a second. Through this study physicists have observed the response rate of an using 'few layer graphene' to be around one hundred femtoseconds – nearly a hundred times quicker than current materials.

Graphene is just one atom thick, but remarkably strong. Scientists have suggested that it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil to break through a single sheet. Already dubbed a miracle material due to its strength, lightness, flexibility, conductivity and low cost, it could now enter the market to dramatically improve telecommunications.

Commenting on the report's main findings, lead researcher Dr Enrico Da Como said: "We've seen an ultrafast optical response rate, using 'few-layer graphene', which has exciting applications for the development of high speed optoelectronic components based on graphene. This fast response is in the infrared part of the , where many applications in telecommunications, security and also medicine are currently developing and affecting our society."

Co-Director of the Centre for Graphene Science at Bath, Professor Simon Bending added: "The more we find out about graphene the more remarkable its properties seem to be. This research shows that it also has unique optical properties which could find important new applications."

In the long term this research could also lead to the development of quantum cascade lasers based on graphene. Quantum cascade lasers are semiconductor lasers used in pollution monitoring, security and spectroscopy. Few-layer could emerge as a unique platform for this interesting application.

Explore further: Graphene on its way to conquer Silicon Valley

More information: prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i21/e217406

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2.8 / 5 (4) Jul 12, 2013
it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil to break through a single sheet.

Surely that is a gross exaggeration or a misunderstanding. A 7000 kg elephant on a 1/4 sq-mm pencil tip would cause a pressure of 280 Gigapascals and a force of 70 kilo-Newtons.

The problem is that since graphene is a sheet just one atom thick, the cross-section area of the sheet is extremely tiny, and since stress is expressed in Newtons/sq-mm (MPa), it actually can't take all that much force. The ultimate tensile strenght of graphene is 130 GPa, which is only when you pull on it evenly, which is not what happens when you poke a pencil through a sheet of graphene. The mechanics of the situation amplify the force in some directions and the sheet rips apart.

A more credible but equally impressive comparison that I've heard is that a single large sheet of graphene could suspend a housecat in mid-air as if in an invisible hammock.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 12, 2013
I think the article's title needs more hype. Also, the article jumps all over the place. There is a bit in paragraph four that is actually related to the title. Article then jumps into unrelated discussions of graphene's strength and its use in quantum cascade lasers for pollution sensors.

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