September 2, 2009

Smallest semiconductor laser is created

Scientists at the University of California-Berkeley say they have created the world's smallest semiconductor laser, ushering in a new era in optical science.

The researchers, led by Professor Xiang Zhang, said the new laser is capable of generating visible light in a space smaller than a single protein molecule. They said they not only successfully squeezed light into such a tight space, but found a novel way to keep that light energy from dissipating as it moved along, thereby achieving laser action.

This work shatters traditional notions of laser limits, and makes a major advance toward applications in the biomedical, communications and computing fields, Zhang said.

He said the achievement helps enable development of such innovations as nanolasers that can probe, manipulate and characterize DNA molecules; optics-based telecommunications many times faster than current technology, and optical computing in which light replaces electronic circuitry with a corresponding leap in speed and processing power.

The research was described Sunday in an advanced online edition of the journal Nature.