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Graphene: World's Thinnest Light Bulb Made From Wonder Prodcut

Jun 16, 2015 01:32 PM EDT

The world's thinnest light bulb has made its debut, measuring at just one atom thick, and it was all made possible thanks to graphene.

The feat is detailed in a new study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

We all know that Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, but how did scientists from Columbia University put the oldest and simplest artificial light source onto an incredibly thin chip?

The team - in collaboration with scientists from Seoul National University (SNU) and Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) - created the light bulb by attaching super thin strips of graphene to metal electrodes. When a current was passed through the suspended strips, the filament lit up.

"We've created what is essentially the world's thinnest light bulb," co-author James Hone at Columbia Engineering said in a statement. "This new type of 'broadband' light emitter can be integrated into chips and will pave the way towards the realization of atomically thin, flexible, and transparent displays, and graphene-based on-chip optical communications."

By finally integrating light onto a chip and ultimately into a so-called "photonic" circuit, researchers may be able to replace electric currents with photonic circuits in semiconductor integrated circuits. Scientists have long tried to integrate the traditional incandescent filament into integrated circuits, but they burn too hot - at thousands of degrees Celsius - putting at risk the chip itself and other circuit components.

The grapheme filament, on the other hand, demonstrated it can withstand temperatures above 2500 degrees Celsius, hot enough to glow brightly.

"The visible light from atomically thin graphene is so intense that it is visible even to the naked eye, without any additional magnification," said Young Duck Kim, first and co-lead author on the paper.

Graphene makes the perfect material for this small light bulb due to one interesting property: the more it is heated up, the less efficiently it conducts heat. So the glowing filament keeps the high temperatures confined to the center of the graphene strips.

"These unique thermal properties allow us to heat the suspended graphene up to half of temperature of the Sun, and improve efficiency 1000 times, as compared to graphene on a solid substrate," explained Myung-Ho Bae, a senior researcher at KRISS.

The researchers are now looking to perfect their discovery and develop novel applications for the light-emitting graphene.

"We are just starting to dream about other uses for these structures," Hone said, "for example, as micro-hotplates that can be heated to thousands of degrees in a fraction of a second to study high-temperature chemical reactions or catalysis."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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