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UK Team Makes Modulators From BN And Graphene

2D materials could bring smaller, faster computer circuits to realisation.

Scientists at the University of Manchester have discovered a new method of creating optical modulators in optoelectronic circuits using graphene and other 2D materials.

Graphene has demonstrated remarkable optical properties that include visual transparency defined by the fine structure constant and gate-tuneable intrinsic plasmons. More recently, graphene has been combined with other 2D materials such as hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) to formstructures that have already been used to develop LEDs. But previous attempts to create hybrid modulators incorporating graphene have yielded promising although limited results.

Writing in Nature Communications, researchers led by Sasha Grigorenko have shown it is possible to combine graphene, hexagonal BN and a nanoscale gold grating to create a new class of optical modulator.

Graphene NOWNANO PhD student Philip Thomas, who led the experimental work, said: "This could pave the way for faster circuits, which is the main selling point of using light instead of electrical signals. But probably the bigger result from this work is that it could allow for a dramatic reduction in the size of these circuits. It is rare to have a modulator which both creates a strong modulation effect and is really tiny."

Grigorenko said: "It is unprecedented to achieve light modulation in such a wide wavelength range - from visible to infrared light in which human eye, night vision goggles and thermal imaging operate - using just one simple design."

'Nanomechanical electro-optical modulator based on atomic heterostructures'  by P.A. Thomas et al;  Nature Communications 7, Article number: 13590 (2016)



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