Combining Graphene with Metallic Nanostructures May Boost Internet Connection Speeds by 10-Times

London - August 30, 2011

According to a press release from Reuters, scientists in Great Britain have come up with a way of using the thinnest material in the world, graphene, to capture and convert even more light than previously thought possible. The discovery opens the way for huge advances in high-speed internet as well as other types of optical communication.

The team that made the discovery includes Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim, both Nobel Prize winning scientists. The scientists discovered that when they put graphene together with metallic nanostructures, the amount of light the material could harvest and convert into ectricity was increased 20 times.

According to the report, graphene is a form of carbon that is just one atom thick --- but over 100 times stronger than steel.

Novoselov, a scientist born in Russia, said that "many leading electronics companies consider graphene for the next generation of devices. This work certainly boosts graphene's chances even further." Novoselov and Geim won last year's Nobel Prize for physics; the prize was awarded, not surprisingly, for their research into graphene.

Earlier studies indicated it is possible to generate electrical power by placing two closely-spaced metallic wires on the top of graphene and then flashing light over the entire structure. The procedure was likened to creating a solar cell.

The scientists further explained that because of the high mobility and the velocity of the electrons found in graphene, the graphene cell devices prove be unbelievably fast; even hundreds of times more rapid than the fastest Internet cables currently used.

The scientists said the only thing that has been blocking the application so far is the low efficiency of the cell devices. It appears that graphene absorbs very small amounts of light - about 3 percent. This means that the rest passes through without making a contribution tothe electrical power.

The teams, part of a partnership between Cambridge University and the University of Manchester, found this problem may be solved by combining graphene with plasmonic nanostructures, which are tiny metallic structures that are arranged on the top of the graphene. When this was done, it boosted the performance of the graphene 20-fold --- but did not lose any speed. The scientists believe this efficiency may be increased.

Alexander Gigorenko, a leading member of the team and an expert in plasmonics said: "We expected that plasmonic nanostructures could improve the efficiency of graphene-based devices - but it has come as a pleasant surprise that the improvements can be so dramatic. Graphene seems a natural companion for plasmonics."

The report concluded by saying that the team feels graphene has great potential in photonics as well as in the development of electronic devices which will channel and control light. The team expects that the exploration of graphene's special electronic and optical qualities, combined with plasmonic nanostructures, will no doubt be fully studied and exploited.