Graphene-based photonic devices for future optical communications

Integrated graphene-based photonic devices may offer a solution for future optical communications. Scientists from the Cambridge Graphene Centre have been working with academic and industrial collaborators within the European Graphene Flagship project.

The researchers wrote about their work and findings in the prestigious journal Nature Reviews Materials (citation below). The research team included scientists from Italy, the UK, Germany, Spain, and Belgium.

They have demonstrated how graphene properties enable lower power consumption and ultra-wide bandwidth communication to radically change how we transmit data across the optical communications systems.

Graphene-integrated devices could, therefore, be the key ingredient in the 5G evolution and Industry 4.0. They could also be the key ingredient for the IoT. IoT stands for the Internet-of-Things.

Graphene is the lightest, thinnest, and strongest material that we know of. It is approximately 200 times stronger than the strongest steel. It is also the best conductor of heat and electricity we know of. Graphene is so thin that scientists refer to it as a 2-dimensional material.

Future of graphene-based integrated photonics

Traditional semiconductor technologies are approaching their physical limitations. Therefore, innovators must explore new technologies to realize the most ambitious visions of a networked global society.

Graphene promises a major step forward in performance for data communications. It also shows promise for the key components of telecommunications.

Integrated graphene-based photonic devices
In an Abstract preceding the main article in the journal, the authors wrote: “We show that graphene-based integrated photonics could enable ultrahigh spatial bandwidth density, low power consumption for board connectivity and connectivity between data centers, access networks and metropolitan, core, regional and long-haul optical communications.” (Image: adapted from

The authors present a vision for the future of graphene-based integrated photonics. They also put forward strategies to improve the consumption of power, wafer-scale integration, and manufacturability.

Additionally, the researchers provide a road-map for graphene-based photonic devices “surpassing the technological requirement for the evolution of datacom and telecom markets driven by 5G, IoT, and the Industry 4.0.”

Lead author, Marco Romagnoli, said:

“Graphene integrated in a photonic circuit is a low cost, scalable technology that can operate fiber links at a very high data rates.”

Romagnoli is Head of Advanced Technologies for Photonic Integration at CNIT in Pisa, Italy. CNIT stands for Consorzio Nazionale Interuniversitario per le Telecomunicazioni (National Interuniversity Consortium for Telecommunications). He is also a contract professor at Scuola Superiore S. Anna in Pisa.

Graphene-based photonic devices – advantages

Graphene-based devices offer not only manufacturing advantages but also advantages in performance over current state-of-the-art devices.

Graphene can ensure detection, modulation, and switching performances. It meets all the requirements for the next evolution. Specifically, the next evolution in photonic device manufacturing.

Co-author, Antonio D’Errico, said:

“Graphene for photonics has the potential to change the perspective of Information and Communications Technology in a disruptive way.”

“Our publication explains why, and how to enable new feature-rich optical networks.”

D’Errico is a Senior Researcher at Ericsson Research.

This academic and industrial partnership consists of scientists in the Cambridge Graphene Centre, Ericsson, AMO, ICFO, Nokia, CNIT, and ICFO. The partnership has produced the vision for tomorrow’s graphene photonic integration.

Collaboration between industry and academia is key

Co-author, Wolfgang Templ, said:

“Collaboration between industry and academia is key for explorative work towards entirely new component technology. Research in this phase bears significant risks, so it is important that academic research and industry research labs join the brightest minds to solve the fundamental problems.”

“Industry can give perspective on the relevant research questions for potential in future systems.”

“Thanks to a mutual exchange of information we can then mature the technology and consider all the requirements for a future industrialization and mass production of graphene-based components.”

Templ works at Nokia Bell Labs where he is Manager of the Radio Transceiver Devices Group.

Professor Andrea Ferrari said:

“An integrated approach of graphene and silicon-based photonics can meet and surpass the foreseeable requirements of the ever-increasing data rates in future telecom systems,” said Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre. “The advent of the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and the 5G era represent unique opportunities for graphene to demonstrate its ultimate potential.”

Prof. Ferrari is Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre. He is also a Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering.

The Internet of Things refers to the interconnectivity of all devices, people, and even animals via the Internet. Driverless cars will communicate with a central traffic computer, your home, work, and other devices.


“Graphene-based integrated photonics for next-generation datacom and telecom,” Cedric Huyghebaert, Marco Romagnoli, Wolfgang Templ, Vito Sorianello, Michele Midrio, Daniel Neumaier, Paola Galli, Antonio D’Errico, Frank H. L. Koppens, & Andrea C. Ferrari. Nature Reviews Materials, volume 3, pages 392–414 (2018). DOI: