Graphene: A Wireless Wonder

Graphene, an allotrope of carbon, have recently attracted the wireless researchers working in the communication field, owing to its typical electromagnetic and optical characteristics.  Graphene can be seen as a mono-atomic thick layer of graphite and have a two dimensional hexagonal structure. It exhibits a saturable absorption property at microwave and tetrahertz band. And, it is this property which makes Graphene a wonder wireless in the eyes of wireless research fellows.

It has been one decade since it got isolated and Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at theUniversity of Manchester were awarded Nobel prize for their experimental studies with material graphene. Since then, researchers have been studying the amazing properties of graphene which could help them to use it commercially. As of now, two prime applications of graphene in wireless communication are securing wireless connection and RF antenna design.

Graphene in wireless security

According to a public release, scientists from Queen Mary Institute of London and Cambridge Graphene Centre have demonstrated that graphene can be employed to secure wireless connections and also be used to improve efficiency of wireless communications. The complete work was published in Scientific Reports, where they showed graphene could increase electromagnetic energy by 90 percent a wide bandwidth. Prof. Yang Hao, the co-author of the work, said, “The technological potential of graphene is well-known. This paper demonstrates one example of how that potential can translate into a practical application,” and “The transparent material could be added as a coating to car windows or buildings to stop radio waves from travelling through the structure. This, in turn, could be used to improve secure wireless network environments, for example.”

Illustration showing graphene hindering wireless signal

 

 

Graphene in next-gen RF chip design

It’s been a while since graphene has been touted as something that could revolutionize the RF chip design industry. But, I would say, it still got a huge way to catch up if it is to replace the current silicon transistors, the key component in today’s electronic devices. In 2011, IBM researchers were able to radio microchip using graphene transistors. But, this was a failure due to the presence of other electronic components like resistors and coils. Later, with a tweak in the design (by reversing the circuit fabrication flow, i.e. by placing transistors above those resistors and coils), they were able to tackle the issue of physical damage by over-amplification caused by other components on it. They demonstrated successful transmission of digital signal containing letters ‘I’, ‘B’ and ‘M’ at 4.3GHz.

Question to ponder

  • In the application mentioned by Prof. Yang Hao, if graphene could stop wireless waves from the car to go outside, how can radio waves from outside reach the mobile phones of the users located inside the car? Graphene material acting like a band-pass filter seems to be amicable solution.

Conclusion

Graphene really seems to revolutionize the wireless technology. It is believed that it can result in low cost, short-ranged and terabit transmission speed antennas. In-addition, it is also found that it require low power and that implies a battery life. Small size and low power consumption makes it apt as a technology for pervasive computing.  Of-course, myriad challenges lie ahead. But, a proper blend of nanotechnology and graphene research predict a promising future of wireless communication. The research using graphene should escalate and it will take some time to translate the research findings to the commercial market.

References

  1. Bian Wu, Hatice M. Tuncer, Majid Naeem, Bin Yag, Matthew T. Cole, William I. Milne and Yang Hao.  “Experimental demonstration of a transparent graphene millimetre wave absorber with 28% fractional bandwidth at 140 GHz”.  Scientific Reports 4 (2014).
  2. Han, Shu-Jen, Alberto Valdes Garcia, Satoshi Oida, Keith A. Jenkins, and Wilfried Haensch. “Graphene radio frequency receiver integrated circuit.” Nature Communications 5 (2014).

Illustration used above have used only Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr and Wikipedia

Jakes

Freelancer and a Wireless tech enthusiast at Blog-Jakes
Anoop Jacob, known as Jakes, is a Wireless tech enthusiast and blogger from India. He is also a researcher and a birder by hobby.


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