Programmable matter getting closer - Researchers create graphene nano-antennas

02/03/2014 - 00:00

By Brian Dodson -

Smart dust. Utility fog. Programmable matter. Grey and blue goo. Cooperating swarms of micron-sized devices (motes) offer completely new solutions and capabilities that can hardly be imagined. However, cooperation requires communication, and conventional radio or optical networking simply isn't practical at this size. Now researchers at Georgia Tech have invented a plasmonic graphene nano-antenna that can be efficiently used at millimeter radio wavelengths, taking one more step toward smart dust.

Graphene is a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms that is positioned to become one of the wonder materials of the 21st Century. Among graphene's unique properties is that its transport electrons behave as if they are without mass, and travel at about 0.3 percent of the speed of light regardless of their energy.

This speed limit implies that the wavelength of surface plasmon polaritons for a given frequency will be several hundred times smaller than the wavelength of freely propagating electromagnetic waves of the same frequency. The Georgia Tech team has demonstrated that this difference in speed enables graphene-based antennas to be far smaller than antennas made using conventional materials while retaining about the same efficiency.