© Farley Santos
© Farley Santos

Graphene-based computers could accelerate processing

New research shows how the interaction between hyper-thin carbon structures and light could allow for accelerated computer processing by replacing electricity.

The team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA, have described this quality as unusual, but not necessarily new.

Lead researcher and physics postdoctoral student at MIT Ido Kaminer said: “There are a few experiments that are done with graphene that are very interesting in what they show, but they haven’t been fully explained. One possible reason is that they might actually have this effect with shockwaves of light, and they just don’t know it.”

Light moves slowly in graphene, although graphene is so thin that light cannot remain inside it, and becomes trapped as beams of plasma. Graphene’s other unusual property is that electrons move quickly within its honeycomb matrix.

This effect on both light and electrons has caused Kaminer and his team to suggest that the electrons move faster than the threshold required to create shockwaves of light.

Known as ‘Čerenkov emissions’, these shockwaves are the equivalent of a sonic boom and allow electrons in graphene to create beams of light that with the potential use in faster computer processing.

“This discovery has opened up the possibility for a number of materials to be used to make optical computer cores,” Kaminer continues. “Boron nitride and monolayers of silver would theoretically have the same properties. For computers of the future, I cant really promise that graphene will be the one that will win.”

Kaminer’s research lab is currently collaborating with other research groups to release light from graphene with the aim of further development.