New research published online on February 26, 2016 in Science Advances has shown how graphene can be manipulated to create the most light-absorbent material for its weight, to date. This nanometer-thin material will enable future applications such as “smart wallpaper”that could generate electricity from waste light or heat, and power a host of applications within the growing “internet of things.” Using a technique known as nanotexturing, which involves growing graphene around a textured metallic surface, researchers from the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute took inspiration from nature to create ultra-thin graphene sheets designed to more effectively capture light. Just one atom thick, graphene is very strong, but traditionally inefficient at light absorption. To combat this, the team used the nano-patterning to localize light into the narrow spaces between the textured surface, enhancing the amount of light absorbed by the material by approximately 90%. The open-access Science Advances article is titled “Ultra-Broadband Light Trapping Using Nanotextured Decoupled Graphene Multilayers.” "Nature has evolved simple, yet powerful,adaptations, from which we have taken inspiration in order to answer challenges of future technologies," explained Professor Ravi Silva, Head of the Advanced Technology Institute. "Moths' eyes have microscopic patterning that allows them to see in the dimmest conditions. These work by channelling light towards the middle of the eye, with the added benefit of eliminating reflections, which would otherwise alert predators of their location. We have used the same technique to make an amazingly thin, efficient, light-absorbent material by patterning graphene in a similar fashion."
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