@UCSD: An Alumni Publication

An Alumni Publication   Archive vol1no3 Contact
Up Front: Letters to and from the editor
Shelf Life: Books
Cliff Notes: Student life and sports
Class Notes: Alumni profiles
Looking Back: Thoughts on UCSD
Credits: Staff and Contributors
Changing Realities
The Gift of Scholarship
Interview with the Chancellor
Three-Dimensional Career
Comic Community
Campus Currents
Birch Celebrates 20 Years
Waggle-Dance Blues
Burning Man Theatre
Where the Wild Seadragons Are
Bird in the Hand
The Nanowire Forest
Reel ArtPower
Honey, I Shrunk the Computer
Pirates in Print
Cannabis Relief for MS

Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Honey, I shrunk the Computer

With a beam of infrared light, physicists at UC San Diego have sent waves of electrons across a gossamer web of carbon atoms. These signals, called plasmons, could carry information the same way light does in fiber optic cables. But with wavelengths that are tens of nanometers rather than hundreds for light, plasmons can fit into much smaller spaces.

The ability to propagate plasmons is just the latest of a host of intriguing properties discovered in this material, called graphene.

A single layer of atoms linked like molecular chicken wire, graphene can be peeled off ordinary graphite, the stuff of pencil leads, using the same kind of adhesive tape found on many office desks. Strong and flexible, it can be printed in tiny circuits that could help shrink computing devices.

Scientists have launched plasmons across the surface of metals before, but graphene plasmons have an additional feature that boosts their potential for transmitting information. The team, led by physics professor Dimitri Basov, demonstrated that they could tune these electron waves—control their frequency and amplitude—using a simple electrical circuit.

—Susan Brown