New experiments presented in Nature magazine seem to show that this substance composed of a single layer of carbon atoms can transform electronic signals transmitted in gigahertz into higher frequency signals. We are talking about terahertz, capable of carrying up to 1,000 times more information per second.

Electromagnetic waves in the terahertz range are notoriously difficult to create and conventional silicon-based electronics have trouble handling these high-frequency signals. Now it seems that graphene-based devices could handle these signals more easily. Future electronic devices based on graphene instead of silicon could work much faster than current devices.

Graphene receives the signals transmitted in incoming gigahertz (black) and transforms them into waves in the terahertz range that have three, five and seven times the original frequency (red, green and blue, respectively).

Graphene effect on electronic frequency

The physicist Dmitry Turchinovich, of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, and colleagues, have tested the ability of graphene to amplify the signals in the order of terahertz by injecting a sheet of this dense material of atoms with 300 gigahertz electromagnetic irradiation. When these electromagnetic waves hit graphene, the electrons in the material heat and cool rapidly, releasing electromagnetic waves with frequencies up to seven times higher than the incoming radiation. This is a surprising new quality of graphene.

Graphene continues to reserve surprises for researchers for its extraordinary properties. It is not long ago, for example, the discovery that a sheet in two dimensions of this material is able to conduct the electric current virtually without resistance.

Graphene converted more than one thousandth, one ten thousandth and one hundred thousandth of the original signal of 300 gigahertz into waves at 0.9, 1.5 and 2.1 terahertz, respectively. This conversion rate may seem small, but it is extraordinarily high for a single layer of atoms.

Making computers based on graphene exploiting this property would allow machines to operate at the terahertz frequencies. Of course, perhaps for a normal PC, this material could be excessive. But the technology could be used in very advanced computers that require high processing speeds.

Another application for which a graphene sheet could be used could be to create nanotubes able to transmit information at very high speed.

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