I like that jacket. Please print me the smartphone on the left sleeve.

Schematic of a proposed spaser comprising an optically pumped carbon nanotube located above a square graphene nanoflake resonator and generating surface plasmons (wavy lines). Credit: Monash University

From time to time a news brings me in the not so distant future, we are talking about ten years and if I look back ten years seem just like yesterday, but at the same time it portends such a change that it actually seems like being eons away. This is the case with this news coming from Monash University where researchers have been able to demonstrate theoretically (in cooperation with a team at the San Petersburg University) that plasmons can be used to create electronic circuits based on graphene.

Graphene, which is a heavily funded area of research worldwide, is providing a very strong and flexible fabric, 100 times stronger than steel and very flexible since it is just one atom thick, that has very interesting properties from an electronic point of view: very low resistance (which means low heat production) and high heat conductivity (which means high dissipation). Graphene based transistors, antennas, waveguides and circuits have already been demonstrated in various labs.

Now, the researchers at Monash have shown, on paper, that it is possibile to create a "spaser" based on graphene. Now, what could a "spaser" be? (even my spelling checker refused to accept the word "spaser").

The words looks bit like "laser" and indeed it has some resemblance. Spaser stands for Surface Plasmon Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Here rather than photons (coherent light emission) we are manipulating plasmons that is coherent electrons oscillations.  I have already mentioned plasmons in other posts and their interesting properties.

The paper presents a theoretical solution to have plasmons on a graphene substrate that can be used to communicate between nanotubes via light transmission (when an electron "changes" its energy state it emits or absorbs a photon). This makes for very efficient (low energy) information transfer and opens the door to a new computation substrate.

The substrate is actually so thin (an atom or so) that it can be printed on any surface and actually the researchers imagine a smartphone printed on clothing in the future. 

We are not even at a prototype stage, but the expected progress in graphene should lead to industrial availability in the next decade and once you have that the next step, creating complex circuits, will be a stone throw away.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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