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Optoelectronics Appear as Promising Application for Graphene

By combining plasmonic nanostructures with graphene, Nobel laureates improve its data transfer efficiency 20 times over

1 min read
Optoelectronics Appear as Promising Application for Graphene

Seeing near daily reports on the latest research on graphene, some observers are becoming weary and asking when the wonder material will find its way into commercial products.

Much graphene research has been dedicated to overcoming its liabilities—namely, its lack of a band gap—but we are now beginning to see some research emerging that plays to its strength in potential applications and more or less avoids its weaknesses, such as in recent work applying it to membranes for natural gas and water purification.

Another application area in which graphene has demonstrated some real promise is in optoelectronics, such as with its ability to function as a “mode-locked” laser despite lacking a band gap.

Now the scientists who won the Nobel Prize for Physics for discovering graphene have just published a paper in the journal Nature Communications, in which they demonstrate that combining graphene with plasmonic nanostructures can increase the previous efficiency of graphene-based photodectors by 20 times.

What this would translate into in terms of today’s optoelectronic data transfer rates is a boost of anywhere from 10 up to 100 times the speed of today’s systems. The key to the improved efficiency seems to be “efficient field concentration in the area of a p–n junction,” according to the abstract of the paper.

Those who are losing patience with graphene always being talked about but never seen used will need to hang on a bit longer, however. While application possibilities that draw on the materials’ strength are beginning to be investigated, it’s still a long and arduous road to a commercial product that could take years and may have little to do with science and technology.

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A Circuit to Boost Battery Life

Digital low-dropout voltage regulators will save time, money, and power

11 min read
Image of a battery held sideways by pliers on each side.
Edmon de Haro

YOU'VE PROBABLY PLAYED hundreds, maybe thousands, of videos on your smartphone. But have you ever thought about what happens when you press “play”?

The instant you touch that little triangle, many things happen at once. In microseconds, idle compute cores on your phone's processor spring to life. As they do so, their voltages and clock frequencies shoot up to ensure that the video decompresses and displays without delay. Meanwhile, other cores, running tasks in the background, throttle down. Charge surges into the active cores' millions of transistors and slows to a trickle in the newly idled ones.

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