An EU-funded project called the SGPCM project ("Switching Graphene-plasmon with Phase-Change Materials") is focusing on the unique capabilities of graphene plasmons to transport and control light emissions at spatial scales far smaller than their wavelength. This project is working on developing ways to use graphene efficiently in novel optical technologies with potential applications in medical imaging, biosensing, signal processing and computing.

Plasmons are quasiparticles that form the smallest quantum of plasma oscillations โ€“ just as a photon is the smallest quantum of light. Graphene plasmons interact strongly with light and can therefore be used to guide it in entirely novel ways, opening pathways to the development of promising new technologies. They can be exploited in countless applications, including for infrared biosensing and absorption spectroscopy to identify the chemical information of biomolecules by detecting their vibrational fingerprints, and for sub-wavelength optical imaging, which enables the imaging of details much smaller than the wavelength of the illuminating light.

However, these applications rely on the development of techniques to be able to efficiently control the electrical tuning of the graphene plasmons, allowing their state to be switched or modulated with low volatility at high speeds.

SGPCM โ€“ a two-year research initiative coordinated by CIC NANOGUNE โ€“ aims to identify, develop and demonstrate ways to solve that problem, targeting a solution based on the use of switchable phase change materials to control graphene plasmons with non-volatile, ultrafast and all-optical switching functionalities.

According to the project team, these new functionalities would significantly enhance the application potential of graphene plasmons in many fields, including optical sensing and all-optical plasmonic signal processing for computing and communications, as well as potentially supporting the development of advanced meta-materials with unique structures and characteristics not found in nature.

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