Electronic systems using light waves instead of voltage signals is advantageous, as electromagnetic light waves oscillate at petaherz frequency. This means that future computers could operate at speeds 1 million times faster than today's. Scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now succeeded in using ultra-short laser impulses to precisely control electrons in graphene.
Current control in electronics that is 1 million times faster than in today's systems is a dream for many. Current control is responsible for data and signal transmission. However, until now, it has been difficult to control the flow of electrons in metals, as metals reflect light waves, which therefore cannot influence the electrons inside the metal conductor.
Physicists at FAU have therefore turned to graphene, a semi-metal that comprises only one single layer of carbon and is so thin that light can penetrate and set electrons in motion. In an earlier study, physicists at the Chair for Laser Physics had already succeeded in generating an electric signal at a time scale of only one femtosecond by using a very short laser pulse. This is equivalenttoone millionth of one billionth of a second. In these extreme time scales, electrons reveal their quantum nature as they behave like a wave. The wave of electrons glides through the material as it is driven by the laser pulse.