IBM labs make graphene photonics breakthrough

IBM has been keen to stay at the forefront of developments with graphene, producing the first integrated circuit based on the material last year.

Now, the firm’s labs have been working on developing further properties of the material, with advances in graphene photonics. 

Scientists have so far been able to fabricate the one atom thick material discovered at the University of Manchester into conductors, insulators and semiconductors. 

As well as some impressive properties that make the material a candidate for ultrafast chips in, IBM has uncovered photonic qualities in graphene.

According to IBM, researchers may be able to create terahertz photonics modulators for optical connections.  This opens the possibility for transmitting large amounts of data at incredibly high speeds.

There are currently very few methods of manipulating light in terahertz waves IBM says, but the “exceptional optical properties” of graphene, which absorbs light from far-infrared to ultraviolet, allow this.

It has been possible to enable terahertz frequency oscillations in single atom graphene, but researchers need to develop a ‘superlattice’ of multilayered graphene in order to allow a resonant frequency strong enough for photonics.

The method used by the scientists meant that the frequencies could be tuned specifically in the terahertz band.

According to IBM, the researchers are working on tuning the graphene superlattices for the infrared frequencies used in current optical communications equipment.