Using wonder material graphene in telecommunications could make the Internet a hundred times faster, new research shows.
Scientists have demonstrated for the first time incredibly short optical response rates using graphene, the one-atom thick miracle material which could pave the way for a revolution in telecommunications.
The material holds huge promise for a variety of applications due to its strength, lightness, flexibility, conductivity and low cost, and the research by physicists at the universities of Bath and Exeter suggest it could now also dramatically improve telecommunications.
Every day large amounts of information are transmitted and processed through optoelectronic devices such as optical fibres, photodetectors and laser, with signals sent by photons at infrared wavelengths and processed using optical switches, which convert signals into a series of light pulses.
Ordinarily optical switches respond at a rate of a few picoseconds – about a trillionth of a second – but the researchers have observed the response rate of an optical switch using "few-layer graphene" to be around one hundred femtoseconds, nearly a hundred times quicker than current materials.
Lead researcher Dr Enrico Da Como, from the University of Bath, 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 electromagnetic spectrum, where many applications in telecommunications, security and also medicine are currently developing and affecting our society."
Professor Simon Bending, co-director of the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Bath, 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 – semiconductor lasers used in pollution monitoring, security and spectroscopy.
The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.