A World Record-Breaking Laser has Been Engineered
Monday, October 6, 2014

With lasers coming in all different sizes and colors, it was only a matter of time until someone pushed the envelope in another area. That’s what happened in September when physicists created a laser that is able to switch on and off at what is considered a record speed. Reported from the journal Nature Physics, physicists from Imperial College London and Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena in Germany were able to create such lasers.

This record-breaking laser was engineered with many different design features. First, semiconductor nanowires were used to develop the laser. Specifically, these nanowires are made of zinc oxide. The scientists created the laser using a silver surface instead of the typical glass surface. Because of the use of the silver, the nanowire lasers shrunk down to the infinitesimal size of 120 nanometers. Can’t picture how tiny that is? Take a strand of you hair and look at it. The nanowire lasers’ size is around a thousandth of the diameter of human hair.

The tiny size of the lasers wasn’t just achieved from the silver surface; it was also achieved by the use of surface plasmons. Surface plasmons are electron oscillations. These oscillations are typically found in the surface of metals, hence the silver. The surface plasmons allowed the group of scientists to squeeze light into much smaller space inside the laser. Conducted at room temperature, the experiment showed this squeezing process allowed for the light to interact more with the zinc oxide than it would in normal conditions.

Not only was the laser minuscule, but because the light interacted with the zinc oxide more than it would in regular conditions, the laser could be turned on and off 10 times faster than any previous study or experiment had allowed, shorter than one trillionth of a second. All of this was tested in the trials the scientists conducted for their laser. The nanowire laser is currently the fastest laser on record, which includes the starting and stopping speeds.

Now, you may be thinking what practical use is there for such a fast laser? Currently, the consensus among the scientists who worked on this laser and others who have learned about it is that with this speed, the laser could be used in data communication. The data connection speed could be much quicker with such a fast laser. Plus, that means more information is being carried per second, so data communication could occur much faster than it already is.

The official research of this project has been published in the journal Nature Physics. With these scientists breaking records and pushing the limits of what lasers can do, who knows what people can come up with next?



(NOTE: Information in this article was developed from Digital Journal and Imperial College London.)



 
 
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