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September 18, 2018

EC Publishes Success Story on Controlling Light at the Nanoscale Thanks to Graphene

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The European Commission (EC) has published a success story, “Controlling light at the nanoscale thanks to graphene.”  The EC notes graphene, “an atomically thin lattice of carbon, has many exceptional properties.”  A European Union (EU)-funded project is focusing on the unique capabilities of graphene plasmons to transport and control light emissions at spatial scales far smaller than their wavelength.  They can be exploited in numerous applications, including for infrared biosensing and absorption spectroscopy to identify the chemical information of biomolecules by detecting their vibrational fingerprints, and for subwavelength optical imaging, which enables the imaging of details much smaller than the wavelength of the illuminating light.  These ground-breaking applications rely on the development of techniques to be able to control efficiently the electrical tuning of the graphene plasmons, however, allowing their state to be switched or modulated with low volatility at high speeds.  The two-year research initiative aims to identify, develop, and demonstrate ways to solve that problem, targeting a solution based on the use of switchable phase change materials to control graphene plasmons with non-volatile, ultrafast, and all-optical switching functionalities.  According to the project team, these new functionalities would significantly enhance the application potential of graphene plasmons in many fields, including optical sensing and all-optical plasmonic signal processing for computing and communications, as well as potentially supporting the development of advanced metamaterials with unique structures and characteristics not found in nature.