Graphene Nanoconductors for Infrared Photodetection

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Graphene offers promise for use in the next generation of photodetection chips in the future.  Photodetectors or photoprocessors can be used in a number of applications  where conversion of light or certain types of electromagnetic energy to a manageable digital dataset is required.  Photodetectors and photoprocessors are used in imaging and sensing, x-ray detection, photovoltaic cells, and a number of other advanced imaging and light conversion technologies[1].

Graphene has been studied for use in logic chips, but there are serious bandgap issues that hamper their processing performance in circuit applications.  Graphene transistors, while incredibly fast, have poor on-off ratios resultant of grapheme not having a bandgap.  In the world of photodetection, this lack of a bandgap is actually a benefit, allowing graphene photodetectors to exceed the performance of silicon-based photodetectors.   These graphene photodetectors can absorb light at the infrared and ultraviolet ends of the light spectrum with almost equal strength.  The benefits of these graphene photodetectors will allow for generational improvements in chemical analysis, night vision optics, and optical communications. 


  1. Palacios ás. Graphene electronics: Thinking outside the silicon box. Nature Nanotechnology. 2011 ;6(8):464 - 465.


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Using graphene in photodetectors and photoprocessors improves the processing of electromagnetic energy in the ultraviolet to infrared range. This will allow for enhanced communications, chemical analysis and night vision optics over conventional silicon based charged coupled devices (CCD).




Benefit Summary: 

This technology offers potential security and environmental benefits associated with enhanced imaging, communications, and chemical analysis.


Risk Summary: 

Certain types of graphene, specifically graphene nanoplatelets, have aerodynamic properties that enable them to stay airborne longer and penetrate deeper into the lungs when inhaled. This poses a potential human health hazard beyond that of less aerodynamic nanoparticles. The toxicological effects of graphene nanoplatelets are unknown so further study is necessary to determine the extent of the risk. That being said, there is extensive research on the toxicological effects of common nanoparticles, nanotubes, and nanowires. The majority of the risk would be in the manufacturing of the raw nanomaterials used in these photoconductors since the graphene would be bound to a silicon substrate once incorporated into the CCD.

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