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Scientists Build New Nanometer-Sized Laser Using a Single Atomic Sheet

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Nature International Weekly Journal of Science, recently published a study entitled “Monolayer semiconductor nanocavity lasers with ultralow thresholds” which details the creation of a nanolaser using a single atomic sheet. The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Washington in collaboration with Stanford University.

The new nanolaser uses a flat tungsten-based semiconductor sheet as the light emitting gain material and uses up only 27 nanowatts to kickstart the beam. The sheet thickness measures a mere three atoms and can be positioned directly on top of an optical cavity, which is a tiny cave that confines and intensifies light.

The energy-efficient, nano-meter sized laser can also be easily fabricated, having the potential to work with silicon components in modern electronics. The ultrathin nature of the semiconductor allows it to efficiently coordinate between the two key components of the laser. By using a separate atomic sheet as the gain material, the laser becomes more versatile. It also provides an opportunity for easy manipulation of its properties.

"You can think of it as the difference between a cell phone where the SIM card is embedded into the phone versus one that's removable," said co-author Arka Majumdar, UW assistant professor of electrical engineering and of physics.

"When you're working with other materials, your gain medium is embedded and you can't change it. In our nanolasers, you can take the monolayer out or put it back, and it's much easier to change around," he said.

Through this new technology, the scientists hope to develop an electrically-driven nanolaser that enables the usage of light, rather than electrons, to transfer information between computer chips and boards. According to the study, current processes being used by large companies have the potential to cause systems to overheat and waste power.

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