If Doctor Evil ever lowered his lofty goal of sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads to something more manageable, such as lasers on frickin’ tadpoles, the world’s smallest laser might serve him well. Physicists from the University of Texas at Austin working with colleagues in Taiwan and China have created what they claim to be the world’s smallest laser. The laser is so small that it can’t be seen with the naked eye.
The laser is the world’s smallest semiconductor laser and is hailed as a breakthrough in the theoretical miniaturization of photonics technology. The researchers believe that the breakthrough could have applications for a number of real-world uses, including computing and medicine. The laser is made using gallium nitride on a nanoscale. The breakthrough called, subdiffraction nanolaser, based on surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, was detailed in the July 27 issue of Science.
The laser breakthrough has great potential to usher in a new era for electronics, in particular. The miniaturization of the semiconductor laser could lead to the development of faster, smaller, and lower energy photon-based electronics such as incredibly fast computer chips and medical sensors for detecting disease. The laser also has the potential for being used in communications.
“We have developed a nanolaser device that operates well below the 3-D diffraction limit,” says Chih-Kang “Ken” Shih, physics professor at The University of Texas at Austin. “We believe our research could have a large impact on nanoscale technologies.” The researcher’s breakthrough is the first continuous-wave low threshold laser below the 3-D diffraction limit, and the laser emits a green light. The laser is constructed of a gallium nitride nano-rod that is partially filled with indium gallium nitride, which are both alloys commonly used in the production of LEDs.