Graphene: World's Thinnest Light Bulb Created with Wonder Material

First Posted: Jun 16, 2015 09:53 AM EDT

Researchers may have created the world's thinnest light bulb. By using graphene, scientists have constructed an on-chip visible light source.

"We've created what is essentially the world's thinnest light bulb," said James Hone, one of the researchers, in a news release. "This new type of 'broadband' light emitter can be integrated into chips that will pave the way towards the realization of atomically thin, flexible and transparent displays, and graphene-based on-chip optical communications."

Creating light in small structures on the surface of a chip is crucial for creating integrated photonic circuits that use light in the same way that circuits currently use electric currents. These new graphene "light bulbs" may be a way to create these chips.

"The visible light from atomically thin graphene is so intense that it is visible even to the naked eye," said Young Duck Kim, co-lead author of the new study. "This is only possible because graphene is transparent, unlike any conventional filament, and allows us to tune the emission spectrum by changing the distance to the substrate."

The researchers created the bulbs by attaching small strips of graphene to metal electrodes, suspended the strips above the substrate, and passed a current through the filaments to cause them to heat up. As graphene heats up, it becomes a much poorer conductor of heat. This means that high temperatures stay confined to a small "hot spot" in the center and prevents the graphene from melting the substrate.

"At the highest temperatures, the electron temperature is much higher than that of acoustic vibrational modes of the graphene lattice, so that less energy is needed to attain temperatures needed for visible light emission," said Myung-Ho Bae, co-lead author.

The researchers hope to continue developing the performance of these devices and integrate them into new devices.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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