Researchers create new light generation method closely related to a laser

A pair of Stanford researchers has discovered a new way to generate ultra-short bursts of light that is closely related to a laser. In the past, this device was confined to the lab because of its sensitive nature. However, a new discovery could bring the close relative of the laser to a range of applications.

The new light source is called an optical parametric oscillator and traditionally the sensitive electronics could be easily misaligned leaving them unusable and stuck in the lab. Researchers Alireza Marandi and Marc Jankowski made a discovery that could lead to smaller, cheaper, and more efficient sources of light pulses. The duo is able to create femtosecond pulses in desirable wavelengths using their light source.

The researchers believe that the tech they have discovered could lead to better detection of pollutants or diseases. The scientists made their breakthrough when they increased the power of the light pulses, something that usually results in undesirable outcomes. However, as the team increased the power, they also reduced the reflectivity of the mirrors they used in the system.

Eventually, the researchers also lengthen the feedback loop used, increasing the time it took for the light pulses to complete their loop. The result was synchronization with "their incoming partners" meaning other pulses of light. This unexpected synchronization more than doubled the bandwidth of the output allowing the emittance of a broader span of wavelengths.

That broader span is difficult to achieve with conventional lasers. The team is now trying to create a version of their device small enough to fit in the hand. The more flexible design of the tweaked system makes miniaturization onto a chip easier and could lead to new applications for the device.