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Research Centre on Graphene, Layered Crystals and Hybrid Nanomaterials

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Graphene shows unique potential to exceed bandwidth demands of future telecommunications

last modified Oct 12, 2018 10:52 AM
Graphene enables ultra-wide bandwidth communications coupled with low power consumption, surpassing the needs of 5G, IoT and Industry 4.0.

Researchers from the Cambridge Graphene Centre, together with industrial and academic collaborators within the European Graphene Flagship project, showed that integrated graphene-based photonic devices offer a unique solution for the next generation of optical communications. Researchers in the initiative have demonstrated how properties of graphene enable ultra-wide bandwidth communications coupled with low power consumption to radically change the way data is transmitted across the optical communications systems. This could make graphene-integrated devices the key ingredient in the evolution of 5G, the Internet-of-Things (IoT), and Industry 4.0. The findings were published in Nature Reviews Materials and highlighted on the cover.

As conventional semiconductor technologies are approaching their physical limitations, researchers need to explore new technologies to realise the most ambitious visions of a future networked global society. Graphene promises a significant step forward in performance for the key components of telecommunications and data communications.

Presenting a vision for the future of graphene-based integrated photonics, the Cambridge Graphene Centre has worked closely industrial and academic partners of the Graphene Flagship to devise strategies for improving power consumption, manufacturability and wafer-scale integration. They presented a roadmap for graphene-based photonics devices surpassing the technological requirement for the evolution of datacom and telecom markets, as driven by 5G, IoT and Industry 4.0. “Graphene integrated in a photonic circuit is a low cost, scalable technology that can operate fibre links at a very high data rates,” says Marco Romagnoli from CNIT, the National Interuniversity Consortium for Telecommunications in Italy.

Credit: Lauren V. Robinson / © Springer Nature Ltd

Graphene photonics offers advantages both in performance and manufacturing over the state of the art. Graphene can ensure modulation, detection and switching performances meeting all the requirements for the next evolution in photonic device manufacturing. Wolfgang Templ, co-author Department Head of Transceiver Research at Nokia Bell Labs in Germany, explains that “graphene can go beyond the limits of today’s conventional semiconductor-based component technologies.” Paola Galli, Nokia IP and Optical networks Member of Technical Staff, adds: “Graphene photonics offers a combination of advantages that make it a game changer.” “We need to explore new materials to go beyond the limits of current technologies and meet the capacity needs of future networks.”

Co-author Antonio D’Errico, from Ericsson Research, says that “graphene for photonics has the potential to change the perspective of Information and Communications Technology in a disruptive way. Our publication explains why, and how to enable new feature rich optical networks. I am pleased to say that this fundamental information is now available to anyone interested around the globe.”

This industrial and academic partnership, comprising researchers in the Cambridge Graphene Centre, CNIT, Ericsson, Nokia, IMEC, AMO, and ICFO produced the vision for the future of graphene photonic integration. “Collaboration between industry and academia is key for explorative work towards entirely new component technology. Research in this phase bears significant risks, so it is important that academic research and industry research labs join the brightest minds to solve the fundamental problems. Industry can give perspective on the relevant research questions for potential in future systems,” adds Templ of Nokia Bell Labs. “Thanks to a mutual exchange of information we can then mature the technology and consider all the requirements for a future industrialization and mass production of graphene-based components.”

Prof. Andrea C. Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre at the University of Cambridge, says: “This paper makes a clear case of why an integrated approach of graphene and silicon-based photonics can meet and surpass the foreseeable requirements of the ever-increasing data rates in future telecom systems. The advent of the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and the 5G era represent unique opportunities for graphene to demonstrate its ultimate potential.”


Graphene-based integrated photonics for next-generation datacom and telecom.
M. Romagnoli, V. Sorianello, M. Midrio, F. H. L. Koppens, C. Huyghebaert, D. Neumaier, P. Galli, W. Templ, A. D’Errico, A. C. Ferrari.
Nature Reviews Materials, 3, 392-414 (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41578-018-0040-9

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