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Giant broadband nonlinear optical absorption response in dispersed graphene single sheets


Under intense laser excitation, thin films and suspensions of graphite and its nanostructure, including carbon black, nanotubes, few-layer graphenes and graphene oxides, exhibit induced transparency due to saturable absorption. This switches to optical limiting only at very high fluences when induced breakdown gives rise to microbubbles and microplasmas that causes nonlinear scattering. Here, we show that dispersed graphenes, in contrast, can exhibit broadband nonlinear optical absorption at fluences well below this damage threshold with a strong matrix effect. We obtained, for nanosecond visible and near-infrared pulses, a new benchmark for optical energy-limiting onset of 10 mJ cm−2 for a linear transmittance of 70%, with excellent output clamping in both heavy-atom solvents and polymer film matrices. Nanosecond pump–probe spectroscopy in chlorobenzene reveals that the nanographene domains switch from the usual broadband photo-induced bleaching to a novel reverse saturable absorption mechanism with increasing excitation densities across this threshold.

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Figure 1: Schematic structure of a functionalized sub-GOx sheet.
Figure 2: Linear and nonlinear transmittance characteristics of sub-GOx/PC film.
Figure 3: Strong solvent/matrix effect on the nonlinear optical properties of dispersed sub-GOx.
Figure 4: Nonlinear transmittance characteristics of ultrasonically exfoliated graphene, sub-GOx and heavily oxidized GOx.
Figure 5: Normalized transient transmittance ΔT/T spectra as a function of pump–probe delay for sub-GOx dispersed in chlorobenzene at a pump wavelength of 532 nm.
Figure 6: Schematic outlining new optical-induced absorption mechanisms.


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L.L.C. acknowledges the Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund for funding. P.K.H.H. acknowledges the Defence Science and Technology Agency for Temasek Young Investigator's award. R.H.F. acknowledges the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation for National University of Singapore Centennial Professorship. J.C. acknowledges the Royal Society for a Dorothy Hodgkin fellowship.

Author information




G.K.L. and L.L.C conceived the idea, performed the experiment and analysed the data. J.C. performed the experiments and analysed the data. R.H.F and P.K.H.H. analysed the data. Z.L.C. and R.G.S.G. synthesized and characterized the graphene materials. W.H.N and H.W.T. contributed to Z-scan measurement setup. G.K.L, J.C., R.H.F., P.K.H.H. and L.L.C. contributed to writing the paper.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Geok-Kieng Lim or Lay-Lay Chua.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Lim, GK., Chen, ZL., Clark, J. et al. Giant broadband nonlinear optical absorption response in dispersed graphene single sheets. Nature Photon 5, 554–560 (2011).

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