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Graphene could lead to step-change in internet speeds

Internet speeds could be accelerated by up to 100 times by the use of graphene in telecommunications, according to university researchers.

In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers from the Centre for Graphene Science at the Universities of Bath and Exeter demonstrated for the first time incredibly short optical response rates using graphene, which could pave the way for a revolution in telecommunications.

Huge 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 rate of a few picoseconds – around a trillionth of a second. Through this study physicists have observed the response rate of an optical switch using ‘few layer graphene’ to be around one hundred femtoseconds – nearly a hundred times quicker than current materials.

Graphene is just one atom thick, but remarkably strong. 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.

Commenting on the report’s main findings, lead researcher Dr Enrico Da Como said: '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. 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.'

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