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Photonics and Optoelectronics

Graphene for high-speed communications

Photonics studies light and its interactions with matter. When combined with electronics, we get the subject of the Photonics and Optoelectronics Work Package. This comprehensive field develops devices to source, control and detect light for different applications, mostly in telecommunications and sensing. A key advantage of graphene and layered materials in optoelectronics is their record-breaking efficiency, which will enable faster solutions for data-transmission, as well as more sustainable solutions for reducing its carbon footprint.

This year’s progress

Our work package creates new components with graphene and layered materials. Beyond telecom and datacom, some interesting applications include image sensing arrays for night-vision and autonomous driving, and innovative sensors for new medical imaging technologies.

This past year, we developed new terahertz detectors with high frequency range, used in different devices for sensing and imaging. Thanks to the work carried out within the Graphene Flagship, including advances in scalability and chemical vapour deposition, terahertz technologies are moving towards higher technology readiness levels (TRL). Other highlights include new electro-absorption modulators that outperform silicon-based alternatives, and other competitors. These types of components could enhance the performance and stability of optoelectronic devices, creating new opportunities in the design of innovative systems. The Photonics and Optoelectronics Work Package also demonstrated the possibilities of hexagonal boron nitride for gas detection in the mid-infrared, using phonon-enhanced sensing. This boosts the sensitivity of carbon dioxide detectors, devices that have become crucial in the monitoring of air quality.

We have exported most of our high-TRL technologies to Graphene Flagship Spearhead Projects – three of which are closely linked to our Work Package – and new spin-off companies. For example, Qurv Technologies, based in Barcelona, creates innovative image sensors in the short-wave infrared using both graphene and quantum dots. These devices work alongside traditional CMOS components, thus enabling low-cost and high-yield manufacturing processes. Cambridge Raman Imaging uses graphene-enabled fibre lasers to better detect cancer and other diseases. Their technology outperforms the competition in terms of both accuracy and price; and should become widely available between 2023 and 2025. Graphene Flagship Associated Member CamGraPhIC is developing novel modulators and transceivers for the future of 5G and 6G communications.

Despite having so many technologies and products close to the market and having filed 20 patents in Core 3, our work package is also deeply committed to fundamental science. We strive to understand the physical phenomena behind our highly efficient devices. One of our key achievements in 2021

was fully theoretical – we created a multiphysics model to simulate the electronic, heat and optical properties of our graphene-enabled components.

In future years, we will further advance our most promising optoelectronic technologies, as well as design creative demonstrators to highlight the commercial value of our discoveries and keep engaging key industrial partners in their commitments to graphene and layered materials.

Upcoming challenges

The Photonics and Optoelectronics Work Package aims to develop the best performing optoelectronic devices, to serve as building blocks for further engineered solutions within the Graphene Flagship Spearhead Projects. Beyond the scope of Core 3, our main challenge is delivering specific technological implementations with increased TRLs and enhanced market uptake. We will need to overcome technical hurdles, as well as work hard to develop new sets of standards, and find investors and manufacturers. Some of these goals will be met in collaboration with the 2D Experimental Pilot Line, while others will require reinforced communication efforts and the application of open science strategies.

Work Package Leadership

Leader: Frank Koppens, ICFO, Spain 
Deputy: Andrea C. Ferrari, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Division Leadership

Leader: Gianluca Fiori, UNIPI, Italy
Deputy: Henri Happy, UniLille, France

Latest Articles

Light bends electrons through graphene
Photonics / Electronics / Materials

Light bends electrons through graphene

Graphene Flagship researchers from ICFO in Barcelona, in collaboration with teams in Columbia University, US, NTU, Singapore and NIMS, Japan, have reported the first use of light to bend of electrons in bilayer graphene.

By ICFO and Graphene Flagship / 19 April 2022
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