Mobile phones shrank in size for more than 20 years until we started to need bigger screens, but now a group of scientists are working on technology that could make phones so small they would be able to be printed onto clothing.
Researchers from Monash University, Australia, are investigating ‘spaser’ technology that will allow the tiny printing to take place.
The technology means that mobile phones could become so small, efficient and flexible they could be printed.
This doesn’t take into account the user experience, or what would happen when clothes are needed to be washed, but the shows how minute the technology could be in the future.
A spaser is a nanoscale laser, or nanolaser, that emits light through the vibrations of free electrons, rather than the space-consuming processes in traditional lasers.
The research used grapheme and carbon nanotubes, which are stronger than steel and can conduct heat and electricity better than copper.
Their research showed for the first time that graphene and carbon nanotubes can interact and transfer energy to each other through light – this makes them idea for applications such as computer chips.
“There is the possibility that in the future an extremely thin mobile phone could be printed on clothing.”
Chanaka Rupasinghe, a PhD student and the lead researcher of the project, said the new spaser would offer new possibilities compared to those that have previously been invented.
“Other spasers designed to date are made of gold or silver nanoparticles and semiconductor quantum dots while our device would be comprised of a graphene resonator and a carbon nanotube gain element,” Chanaka said.
“The use of carbon means our spaser would be more robust and flexible, would operate at high temperatures, and be eco-friendly. Because of these properties, there is the possibility that in the future an extremely thin mobile phone could be printed on clothing.”
The researchers say spaser-based devices can be used as an alternative to current transistor-based devices such as microprocessors, memory and displays to overcoming the problems with miniaturising and bandwidth limitations.
The term spaser, which stands for ‘surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ was first used by David Bergman and Mark Stockman in 2003.
Chanaka said a spaser generated high-intensity electric fields concentrated into a nanoscale space.
The researcher added: “Graphene and carbon nanotubes can be used in applications where you need strong, lightweight, conducting, and thermally stable materials due to their outstanding mechanical, electrical and optical properties.
They have been tested as nanoscale antennas, electric conductors and waveguides.”
Featured image courtesy of Adam Russel via Flickr/creative commons
Image 2 courtesy of Monash University