August 31, 2011
Graphene Shows Promise In Future Technology
Research published in the journal Nature Communication states that graphene, the world´s thinnest material at one atom thick and 100 times stronger than steel, has been set up to produce electric energy. According to Reuters, previous research has shown that electrical power can be generated by placing two closely spaced metallic wires on top of graphene and shining light on the structure, making a simple solar cell.
The researchers, Nobel Prize winning scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from the Universities of Manchester and Cambridge, explained that graphene cell devices can be incredibly fast, tens to hundreds of times faster than communications in the fastest internet cables, due to the high motility and velocity of the electrons in its structure.
According to Reuters, Novoselov said, “Many leading electronics companies consider graphene for the next generation of devices. This work certainly boosts graphene´s chances even further.”
The only drawback in using the material is its low efficiency, with approximately 3% of the light being absorbed by the material while the rest goes through without contributing to electrical power. The researchers discovered, however, that combining graphene with tiny metallic structures known as plasmonic nanostructures increased the light-harvesting efficiency by 20 times without sacrificing the speed of the material.
“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,” said Alexander Grigorenko, a leading member of the research team, according to Reuters.
Faster electron speeds in materials means faster electronics. In a separate study, researchers at UC Berkeley have suggested that graphene could be used to replace traditional transistors in the next generation of computer chips.
“Graphene enables us to make modulators that are incredibly compact and that potentially perform at speeds up to ten times faster than current technology allows. This new technology will significantly enhance our capabilities in ultrafast optical communication and computing,” Engineering professor Ziang Zhang told the Huffington Post.
Image Caption: Graphane crystal. This novel two-dimensional material is obtained from graphene (a monolayer of carbon atoms) by attaching hydrogen atoms (red) to each carbon atoms (blue) in the crystal. Credit: University of Manchester
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