Graphennas: The Wonder Compound Meets Nano-Scale Wireless Communications

Oct 12, 2015  |  Communications

Graphennas – a seemingly far-fetched idea of tiny antennas composed of graphene – are one step closer to revolutionizing nanotechnology thanks to recent tests published in IEEE Transactions on Communications. Or at least, they’re one step closer to reality.

While the hypothetical concept of graphennas has been introduced in previous works and is gaining interest in the field, the new study conducted by researchers in Catalunya, Spain details a way to characterize them for their next stage of development.

Our study takes graphennas a step further toward commercial development.

First, some background on why these miniature antennas are making such a big difference…

Nanotechnology – where one nanometer is a billionth of a meter – is bursting with scientific and engineering advancements from the miniaturization of smart devices to the manipulation of atoms for better sunscreens and socks. Certain types of nanotechnology, such as computer chips and nanosensor networks that detect things like infectious bacteria, are benefiting from wireless communications. Wireless technology allows information to be transmitted among these systems at ultra-short range without the tedious wiring and operational costs traditionally needed to support them.

But the metallic antennas often used in wireless communications are not equipped to perform well on this tiny level. Here’s where graphennas could be a solution.

Unlike metallic structures, graphene offers extraordinary plasmonic properties that are highly conductive and tunable, ideal for the very high, electromagnetic frequencies often transmitted in nano-scale environments (.1-10 THz). In addition, it’s been suggested graphene could be perfect for wireless communications because of its “wideband” nature, which allows it to accept signals over a vast range of frequencies.

Typically, researchers test the behavior of an antenna using the “frequency-domain,” meaning they tune the structure to a given frequency and test one “tone” at a time. However, because graphene is likely wideband, testing in this way wouldn’t be very useful. Instead, the team decided to measure graphennas in the “time-domain” by exciting the structure with a very short pulse and seeing how it behaves over short periods of time.

In other words, the researchers positioned graphennas in a framework that can, for the first time, lead to concrete results.

“So far there’s been a lot of academic research on graphennas, but our study takes them a step further toward commercial development,” said Sergi Abadal, lead researcher. “Our intention was to obtain simulation results that could, in the future, be compared with actual measurements.”

During their own testing, the team evaluated two variables in particular that affect a graphenna’s performance: chemical potential and carrier mobility. Their results not only captured measurements for real-life design and production purposes, but they confirmed the suitability of graphene for ultra-short-range communications. The team is now working on extending their research to test the performance of graphennas across entire rooms.

According to Abadal, graphennas are about five to 10 years out from deployment in electronics.

You can also find more articles about “graphene” in IEEE Xplore.

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