Coming Soon: Multi-Color Graphene-Based Lasers

You know that kid in school who was so good at sports that he started on both the football and the basketball team? Well in the world of advanced technology, graphene is that kid.

Every time we turn around, there’s news of some new and wonderful thing that graphene can do. Turning ocean brine into drinkable water? Check. Astoundingly high-quality headphones? Check. Making batteries obsolete? Check. And now, thanks to a team of international researchers, graphene is about to add “creates frickin’ lasers” to the growing list.

We already know that graphene is one of the thinnest, strongest and most conductive materials ever found. None of those words bring to mind the qualities of a sponge, but that’s just how this amazing carbon material behaves when exposed to the infrared spectrum.

In 2009, physicist Andrea Ferrari of the University of Cambridge, UK, demonstrated that graphene’s hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms was capable of absorbing light. Now, together with Roy Taylor, a physicist at Imperial College London, Ferrari has developed a device that’s capable of turning that light around and shooting it back out into the world….in any color.

Because all other lasers can only produce a single color, some applications require many different lasers to get the job done. “The experiments show that graphene-based lasers could replace these multiple-laser setups for things like pollution detection, fiber optic communications…” and thanks to an ability to withstand a laser’s intense heat, could someday “be built into a laser as small as a pencil,” writes Glen Tickle at Geekosystem.

We can’t wait.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog