your Home PC is now a dying dinosaur, the Next Gen Computers could run a lot faster if they used light, in addition to electrical currents, to handle data – especially in links between chips.
While light is perfectly suited for transmitting data fast over long distances via optical fibres, it is not easy to control and manipulate within the confines of a chip. Essential but difficult to design components for this task are photodetectors that convert light signals into electrical currents.
Graphene can help out. It is easily manufactured and transferred onto silicon, absorbs light from a wide range of wavelengths and has high electrical conductivity.
A problem so far has been that graphene absorbs light only weakly, but this has now been solved simultaneously by three different research groups, who have developed graphene photodetectors integrated in silicon optical waveguides.
The new graphene devices come close in performance to existing photodetectors, but offer some particular advantages: graphene's exceptionally fast-moving electrons make high-speed signal processing possible and, in addition, the devices operate over a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, from visible light to telecommunications wavelengths and beyond.