World’s thinnest material may boost Internet speeds
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Two Nobel Prize winning scientists out of the U.K. have come up with a new way to use graphene – the thinnest material in the world – that could make Internet pipes feel a lot fatter.
University of Manchester professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work with graphene, write in the journal Nature Communications of a method of combining the carbon-based material with metallic nanostructures to use as photodetectors that could greatly increase the amount of light optical communications devices could handle. This advance in graphene light harvesting and conversion into electrical power could lead to communications rates tens or even hundreds of times faster than today’s, the researchers say.

“The technology of graphene production matures day-by-day, which has an immediate impact both on the type of exciting physics which we find in this material, and on the feasibility and the range of possible applications,” Novodelov said in a statement. “Many leading electronics companies consider graphene for the next generation of devices. This work certainly boosts graphene’s chances even further.”

University of Cambridge researchers teamed with the University of Manchester researchers on the graphene work.

Leading tech vendors including IBM Corp. [NYSE: IBM] have been investing heavily in graphene-based technologies. Big Blue earlier this summer claimed to build the first graphene-based integrated circuit, which some day could lead to improved wireless devices and less-expensive displays. Earlier in the year, IBM demonstrated a 155-GHz graphene transistor, its fastest yet.

Graphene could also play a role in extending battery life substantially. A company called Vorbeck Materials of Jessup, Md., is working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to integrate graphene into batteries that can store more energy and recharge more quickly. 

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