Controlling light at the nanoscale with graphene

(Nanowerk News) Graphene, an atomically thin lattice of carbon, has many exceptional properties. An EU-funded project is developing ways to use this unique nanomaterial efficiently in novel optical technologies with potential applications in medical imaging, biosensing, signal processing and computing.
The SGPCM project ("Switching graphene-plasmon with phase-change materials") is focusing on the unique capabilities of graphene plasmons to transport and control light emissions at spatial scales far smaller than their wavelength.
Plasmons are quasiparticles that form the smallest quantum of plasma oscillations – just as a photon is the smallest quantum of light. Graphene plasmons interact strongly with light and can therefore be used to guide it in entirely novel ways, opening pathways to the development of promising new technologies.
They can be exploited in numerous applications, including for infrared biosensing and absorption spectroscopy to identify the chemical information of biomolecules by detecting their vibrational fingerprints, and for subwavelength optical imaging, which enables the imaging of details much smaller than the wavelength of the illuminating light.
However, these ground-breaking applications rely on the development of techniques to be able to efficiently control the electrical tuning of the graphene plasmons, allowing their state to be switched or modulated with low volatility at high speeds.
SGPCM – a two-year research initiative supported by the EU’s Marie Sk?odowska-Curie programme – aims to identify, develop and demonstrate ways to solve that problem, targeting a solution based on the use of switchable phase change materials to control graphene plasmons with non-volatile, ultrafast and all-optical switching functionalities.
According to the project team, these new functionalities would significantly enhance the application potential of graphene plasmons in many fields, including optical sensing and all-optical plasmonic signal processing for computing and communications, as well as potentially supporting the development of advanced metamaterials with unique structures and characteristics not found in nature.
Source: Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics
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