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From radio to television to the internet, telecommunications transmissions are simply information carried on light waves and converted to electrical signals.

Silicon-based fiber optics are currently the best structures for high-speed, long distance transmissions, but —an all-carbon, ultra-thin and adaptable material—could improve performance even more.

In a study published April 16 in ACS Photonics, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers fabricated graphene into the smallest ribbon structures to date using a method that makes scaling-up simple. In tests with these tiny ribbons, the scientists discovered they were closing in on the properties they needed to move graphene toward usefulness in telecommunications equipment.

"Previous research suggested that to be viable for telecommunication technologies, graphene would need to be structured prohibitively small over large areas, (which is) a fabrication nightmare," says Joel Siegel, a UW-Madison graduate student in physics professor Victor Brar's group and co-lead author of the study. "In our study, we created a scalable fabrication technique to make the smallest graphene ribbon structures yet and found that with modest further reductions in ribbon width, we can start getting to telecommunications range."

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