Wonder material now touted as the key to "extremeband" speeds.
Researchers have uncovered a new use for graphene: speeding up fibre broadband.
The computing wonder material has been touted as a potential ingredient for making faster, heat-resistant chips - with British-based scientists receiving a Nobel Prize for their development of the material last year.
Now, California-based researchers are planning to use graphene to speed up broadband, promising a new category of internet connection called "extremeband".
By using graphene to create tiny optical switching devices, University of California researchers believe data transmission speeds could be as much as ten times faster, letting users download high-definition, 3D films in "a matter of seconds".
“This is the world’s smallest optical modulator, and the modulator in data communications is the heart of speed control,” said researcher Xiang Zhang, who directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center at UC Berkeley.
“Graphene enables us to make modulators that are incredibly compact and that potentially perform at speeds up to ten times faster than current technology allows," Zhang said.
The devices are 25 square microns - 400 times thinner than a human hair - and much smaller than the current commercial modulators, which are a few square millimetres in size.
The graphene innovation not only allows faster switching, but more data to be packed into each pulse of light, Zhang explained. “Instead of broadband, we will have ‘extremeband’."
That won't only allow faster downloads of movies and other online data, but could find a place in industrial applications, too. The technology should start to show up in industry within the next few years, Zhang said.