Graphene-based devices to reduce energy consumption making the future of telecommunications and digital devices a low-carbon future. The new graphene production method adaptable to industrial needs and a new high-efficiency device for broadband telecommunications developed by a team of researchers of the Italian Institute of Technology. The innovations were developed by Italian researchers as part of the European Graphene Flagship initiative, which aims to develop new high-tech solutions to foster EU competitiveness on international markets. A nice step forward since it is estimated that by 2023 the world will see over 28 billion connected devices, most of which will require broadband connections and that of information and communication technologies they are already responsible for almost 4% of all greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to the carbon footprint of the airline industry, which is expected to increase to about 14% by 2040. The results of the two studies were presented in two publications in international scientific journals, Acs Nano and Nature Communications, by the team coordinated by researcher Camilla Coletti, head of the Graphene Labs of the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit) in Pisa, and by Marco Romagnoli, head of the Advanced Technologies for Photonic Integration Lab at Cnit in Pisa.
Funded by the European Commission in 2013, the ten-year Graphene Flagship initiative is currently in the core3 phase, i.e. in the part of the project that is more oriented towards achieving industrial objectives in various sectors, from biomedical, to composites, to energy and optoelectronics. IS within the Graphene Flagship, the Italian Camilla Coletti coordinates the scientific work of the international team dedicated to the production of graphene and its use in telecommunications. The Italian scientist is involved in the Spearhead Metrograph project, where graphene-based photonic devices, explain from the IIT, “take on the dual function of signal receivers and transmitters, thinking of their wide introduction on the market”.
In fact, Metrograph promotes collaboration between the academic world and the most advanced industries in the sector with the aim of developing prototypes that have the appropriate characteristics to become high-tech products. The new technique, developed in the laboratories of the Iit Center in Pisa, the Center for Nanotechnology Innovation (Cni) at the Nest, it concerns the realization of graphene crystals with a thickness of one atom and their integration on industrial photonic platforms. The researchers point out that this technique “can be translated into an automatic transferable process in large-scale production.” The new method makes it possible to obtain 12,000 graphene crystals in a single wafer, corresponding to the exact configuration and arrangement needed for graphene-based photonic devices. Camilla Coletti, coordinator of Iit’s Graphene Labs, notes that “traditionally, when aiming to integrate graphene on a large scale, we start from the synthesis of a single layer of graphene hundreds of square centimeters wide and transfer it to photonic platforms (wafers): it would be very difficult to transfer an area as large as a ‘sheet’ and as thick as an atom, without generating wrinkles and holes “.” Our technique – explains Coletti – allows us to obtain single crystals of graphene, with excellent structural and electronic properties, exactly where they are needed. The graphene crystals are then transferred into the most suitable configurations for the realization of photonic devices, in this case without the risk of creating defects “.
The Italian research groups applied the new manufacturing technique to the design of high-speed graphene photodetectors. Photonic devices based on graphene offer several advantages: they absorb light from ultraviolet to far infrared, allowing ultra-broadband communications, and have a high mobility of electrical charges within them, allowing data transmission that exceeds Ethernet networks to the best performance, breaking the barrier of 100 gigabits per second. “In graphene almost all the energy of light can be converted into electrical signals” observes Marco Romagnoli of CNIT in Pisa. “It is a feature – underlines Romagnoli – that allows us to enormously reduce energy consumption and maximize the efficiency of telecommunications devices”. The researchers assure that compared to classical devices, “which have limitations in terms of size and cost, the use of graphene-based devices would reduce energy consumption, making the future of telecommunications a low-carbon future “. The research work has seen involvement, in addition to Iit and Cnit, of other Italian research realities, the Inphotec and the Tecip Institute – both based in Pisa, the innovative start-up CamGraphiC, the multinational Nokia, with research groups in Italy and Germany , and the Cambridge Graphene Center at the University of Cambridge in the UK. (by Andreana d’Aquino)