Scientists at Columbia Engineering have discovered yet another talent in graphene, a unique new material that consists of a sheet of carbon only one atom thick. Graphene is already under the spotlight for its potential use in ultra-efficient electronics, batteries, solar energy, and even desalination, and now it seems that graphene could provide a platform for energy-efficient telecommunications, too.
Graphene for telecommunications
The new research, in collaboration with the Institute of Microelectronics in Singapore, has resulted in the development of a hybrid semiconductor chip made of silicon layered with graphene.
With the addition of graphene, the research team was able to make the chip generate a radio frequency on top of a laser beam. They could also change the frequency by altering the intensity and color of the laser beam.
The device is based on “mixing” two electromagnetic fields that operate at low energy, which translates into a reduction in the amount of energy needed to transmit each information bit.
I did so build this graphene whatsis!
Given the number of large and small businesses that have launched on the back of silicon chips, Columbia’s new hybrid chip could have the potential to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of new private sector enterprises based on a new generation of energy-efficient telecommunications.
Entrepreneurs who succeed in this new niche will naturally want to give a measure of credit to the research team that developed the new hybrid chip.
While they’re at it, they could throw a bone to the Columbia Energy Frontier Research Center program, which supported the research and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as the the Columbia Optics and Quantum Electronics IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) program, which is funded by another government agency, the National Science Foundation.
Image: Courtesy of Columbia Engineering.
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.