Slowing down the speed of light and a Boom

Researchers found a new way of converting light from graphene to electricity.

According to the study, when light strikes a sheet of graphene, a two-dimensional form of the element carbon, it can slow down by a factor of a few hundred. The reduced speed of photons moving through the sheet of graphene is very similar to how electrons move through the same material, producing a kind of optical "boom," or an intense, focused beam of light.

"Graphene has this ability to trap light, in modes we call surface plasmons," says lead researcher Ido Kaminer.

He explains that plasmons are a kind of virtual particle that represents the oscillations of electrons on the surface, whose speed through the graphene is "a few hundred times slower than light in free space.”

Speeding up Electrons and a flash of light

Apart from that, electrons in graphene pass through it at very high speeds, up to a million meters per second, or about 1/300 the speed of light in a vacuum, meaning the two speeds were similar enough that significant interactions might occur between the two kinds of particles if they can be tuned to have the same velocities.

"This conversion is made possible because the electronic speed can approach the light speed in graphene, breaking the 'light barrier,” Kaminer says. "In the case of graphene, this leads to the emission of a shockwave of light, trapped in two dimensions." 

The plasmon-based approach has the potential of becoming a more efficient, more compact, faster, and more flexible alternative to harnessing light, as compared to fluorescent tubes and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Additionally, scientists also found that plasmons could be made into microchips for new, light-based circuits, influencing not just household lighting but also everyday devices such as the smartphone and the tablet.

The light capabilities of graphene described in the video below:

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