Smallest Ever Semiconductor Laser BuiltCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 30, 2012 05:59AM
Electrons are very small elementary particles that are also fairly easy to produce and control. Photons also can be produced and controlled easily, but not at extremely small scales. This has been causing issues with attempts to integrate photonics into electronics; the photonics can dwarf the electronics. Now researchers at the University of Texas, Austin have created the world’s smallest semiconductor laser, which may enable the two technologies to be combined on single chips.
Part of the reason photonics have been so large in the past is because of the 3D diffraction limit for the light, which prevents a photon from being squeezed into a space smaller than half the wavelength. The researchers’ laser however is actually smaller than this limit thanks to its design that utilizes a single nanorod and an atomically smooth piece of silver with a layer of silicon dioxide between them. This design takes advantage of plasmonics effects to create a green laser while being too small for the human eye to see.
The hope for this laser design is to enable on-chip communication systems for sending information at low energy and high speed. By using a photonic or plasmonics solution like this, the chip may also produce less heat.