Using graphene in telecommunications could make the internet 100 times faster, according to scientists.
They have demonstrated for the first time incredibly short optical response rates using the material, which in turn could pave the way for a revolution in telecommunications.
Graphene, though just one atom thick, is remarkably strong.
Scientists have suggested that it would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a single sheet.
Already dubbed a “miracle material” due to its strength, lightness, flexibility, conductivity, and low cost, it could now enter the market to dramatically improve telecommunications.
Every day, large amounts of information are transmitted and processed through optoelectronic devices such as optical fibres, photodetectors, and lasers.
Signals are 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 the rate of a few picoseconds — about a trillionth of a second.
Physicists at the universities of Bath and Exeter have observed the response rate of an optical switch using “few-layer graphene” to be around 100 femtosec-onds — nearly 100 times quicker than current mat-erials.
Lead researcher Enrico Da Como, from the University of Bath, said: “We’ve seen an ultrafast optical response rate, using ‘few-layer graph-ene’, 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.”
Prof 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.
Quantum cascade lasers are semiconductor lasers used in pollution monitoring, security and spectroscopy.
The findings are published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.