Now a team that includes Nobel Prize–winning graphene researchers Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov has improved graphene's ability to act as a photodetector. They combined graphene with metallic nanostructures to get a 20-fold enhancement in its ability to absorb light.
Scientists already knew that adding certain materials to graphene could increase its light-harvesting efficiency and its ability to turn those photons into electricity. But they didn't realize just how much better the carbon sheets could get. They now believe that graphene could be the foundation for optical communications that are at least 10 and maybe even 100 times faster than the fastest data transfer rates available today. In which case, the speed increase we got by moving from dial-up to broadband may have just been shifting into second gear on the information superhighway.