Researchers at Arizona State University have announced a breakthrough in nanolaser technology that could enable electrically-powered nano-scale lasers to perform reliability at room temperature and facilitate their use in a variety of practical applications. While scientists have long believed that nanolasers have the potential to help computers and other electronic devices operate faster and more reliably, the large amount of cooling required to dissipate the heat generated by the nanolasers has made their use impractical.
According to Cun-Zheng Ning, head of the ASU research team, in order for nanolasers to be useful in electronic and photonic applications, the laser must be able to operate at room temperature without a refrigeration system; must be powered by a “simple battery” instead of by another laser; and must be able to emit light continuously.
“[This] has been the ultimate goal in the nanolaser research community,” Ning said.
Ning and his colleagues began looking for solutions almost seven years ago. Since then, a number of experiments have led them to their recent successful demonstration of the electrically-driven operation of a laser at room temperature—a demonstration that marks an eight-fold improvement over previous results from just a year ago, according to Ning. He added that their latest achievement could help computers operate faster, increase Internet bandwidth capabilities and provide light sources for computer-chip-based sensing and detection technologies.
However, the benefits of achieving continuous room-temperature operation of a nanolaser go beyond the practical aspects, Ning said.
“In terms of fundamental science, it shows for the first time that metal heating loss is not an insurmountable barrier for room-temperature operation of a metallic cavity nanolaser under electrical injection. For a long time, many doubted if such operation is even possible at all,” he said.
A number of challenges still remain for the research team, including integrating nanolasers into a photonic system-on-chip platform and increasing the lifetime of laser operation. Still, Ning believes that a significant hurdle has been overcome with the success of the team’s latest achievement.
“Thanks to the realization of room-temperature operation of nanolasers, all these goals can start to be more effectively explored,” he said.
For more information, visit Arizona State University.