Graphene Optical Switches One Hundred Times Faster Than Current Devices

U.K. researchers used graphene to create an ultrafast optical switch

1 min read
Graphene Optical Switches One Hundred Times Faster Than Current Devices

Just two years ago, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, the two scientists who won the Nobel Prize for discovering graphene, succeeded in improving photodetectors to the degree that they could boost optoelectronic data transfer rates by a factor of 20. That breakthrough relied on using graphene combined with plasmonic nanostructures.

Now researchers at the University of Bath in the U.K. are reporting measurements indicating that graphene could lead to optical switches that are nearly a hundred times faster than materials used in today’s current switches.

The research, which was published in the journal Physical Review Letters (“Carrier Lifetime in Exfoliated Few-Layer Graphene Determined from Intersubband Optical Transitions”), found that the response rate of an optical switch using graphene to be around 100 femtoseconds, which is about a hundred times faster than the few picoseconds measured in today’s devices.

“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,” said lead researcher Dr. Enrico Da Como in a press release. “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.”

In addition to photodetectors and optical switches, graphene is proving attractive for tunable notch filters, an area where IBM has made some interesting progress. Also, researchers have been able to exploit graphene’s wide spectral range for different kinds of tunable lasers that are used in optoelectronic systems.

In fact, the research team’s long-range goal is to apply this discovery to the development of graphene-based quantum cascade lasers that could be used for pollution monitoring, security, and spectroscopy applications.

Image: Martin McCarthy/iStockphoto

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The Transistor of 2047: Expert Predictions

What will the device be like on its 100th anniversary?

4 min read
Six men and a woman smiling.

The luminaries who dared predict the future of the transistor for IEEE Spectrum include: [clockwise from left] Gabriel Loh, Sri Samavedam, Sayeef Salahuddin, Richard Schultz, Suman Datta, Tsu-Jae King Liu, and H.-S. Philip Wong.

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The 100th anniversary of the invention of the transistor will happen in 2047. What will transistors be like then? Will they even be the critical computing element they are today? IEEE Spectrum asked experts from around the world for their predictions.

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