Graphene discoveries: photodetectors and silicon chip replacement

In the latest round of graphene discoveries, researchers are finding that graphene can respond to light and be built to replace the silicon chip.

Graphene has always been the wonder material. It was first discovered at the University of Manchester in 2004 by professor Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov. It has long been said that it can revolutionize material science. And from the latest discoveries, that pipe dream may be within reach.

First, University of Manchester scientists have created a prototype that could one day replace the silicon chip. The four-layered structure is called the "Big Mac." Like the famed hamburger, the graphene structure was made with four layers to show how graphene can be integrated with electronics.

"Creating the multilayer structure has allowed us to isolate graphene from negative influence of the environment and control graphene’s electronic properties in a way it was impossible before," Manchester's professor Leonid Ponomarenko said.

The discovery may lead to a new kind of electronics such as bendable smartphones and computers, lighter planes, and thinner HD TV sets. It's not there yet, but the researchers are closer to building a platform that can be scaled up for producing graphene electronics.

In a separate study, MIT researchers discovered that graphene responds to light. The discovery came after researchers shined a light onto the material and noticed that it could generate a current. It uses current in a different way than conventional materials because it can absorb a wider energy range.

If used as a photodetector, graphene could be used to improve the sensitivity of sensors when it comes to detecting toxins or food contaminants in the environment.

According to the MIT news office:

It works very well in infrared light, which can be difficult for other detectors to handle. That could make it an important component of devices from night-vision systems to advanced detectors for new astronomical telescopes.

Photo via Manchester University

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