Lasers have proven to be an invaluable tool since their discovery, and even after all of these decades, they still have untapped potential. Some of this potential is related to the lasing material used, as different materials will bring with them different properties. Researchers at North Carolina State University have recently made some measurements of the plastic MEH-PPV, which may become an invaluable laser material in the future.
A key aspect of a laser's operation is its ability to amplify light, so for any material to be made into a laser, researchers must have measured its optical gain. In the case of MEH-PPV though, taking such measurements are quite difficult. The method used involves firing short laser pulses into the plastic and recording how much extra light the material produces. Previous attempts however have used laser pulses long enough that they were heating the material and disrupting the results. The North Carolina researchers however used pulses just 25 picoseconds long, or 0.000000000025 seconds, which is too short to heat MEH-PPV.
With MEH-PPV's optical gain measured, researchers may start working on lasers that utilize the inexpensive plastic. Such lasers could then be integrated into silicon chips and aid in the development of photonic devices.
Source: North Carolina State University