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Researchers Create World's Smallest Semiconductor Laser

By - Source: UT | B 9 comments

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have come closer to a all-optics chip.

Their new laser, claimed to be the smallest in the world, is so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

The laser was built using a 30 nm gallium nitride nanorod that is partially filled with indium gallium nitride. The nanorod is placed on a 5 nm thin silicon dioxide gap layer that is sandwiched between the nanorod and an "atomically smooth" 28 nm silver film. Chih-Kang “Ken” Shih, professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin, said that “atomic smoothness is key to building photonic devices that don’t scatter and lose plasmons, which are waves of electrons that can be used to move large amounts of data." Shih said that he has been experimenting and improving the material for more than 15 years.

So far, the size and performance of photonic devices have been restricted by what is known as the three-dimensional optical diffraction limit, which was described by two German researchers in a paper published in Laser & Photonics Reviews earlier this year. However, their new, green light emitting laser operates "well below" the 3D diffraction limit. Shih and his team believe that their tiny laser will have a huge impact on photonic chip development and promote the development of chips that are fully photonic and integrate “on-chip” communication systems.

 

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    ses27 , July 27, 2012 10:24 PM
    So you can put this on the head of a baby shark
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    Chainzsaw , July 27, 2012 9:17 PM
    With this small laser - does this mean optical media can be further enhanced by more data being able to fit in the same space?

    This seems like it would be great for future processors/RAM for communications - since light does not have limitations copper has.
  • 4 Hide
    phatboe , July 27, 2012 9:39 PM
    ChainzsawWith this small laser - does this mean optical media can be further enhanced by more data being able to fit in the same space?

    Doubtful since it still emits green light.
  • Display all 9 comments.
  • 14 Hide
    ses27 , July 27, 2012 10:24 PM
    So you can put this on the head of a baby shark
  • 4 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , July 28, 2012 1:00 AM
    ChainzsawWith this small laser - does this mean optical media can be further enhanced by more data being able to fit in the same space?This seems like it would be great for future processors/RAM for communications - since light does not have limitations copper has.


    Nope, what this means is that Thunderbolt controller chips are about to get really cheap. This can theoretically be used to replace the waveguide circuitry on motherboards and the copper interconnect layers in a processor. . . but that also means one needs to built a optical transmission/reception device at either end hence completely nullifying the whole purpose of simplifying the circuit with a laser in the first place.
  • 0 Hide
    onichikun , July 28, 2012 2:58 AM
    Also it isnt that easy to grow GaN on silicon substrates, since it puts quite a bit of stress on the silicon lattice its grown on. It would be nice to have optical transmission on chip, but this technology is going to be hard to integrate into todays fab processes.
  • 0 Hide
    A Bad Day , July 28, 2012 3:07 PM
    ChainzsawThis seems like it would be great for future processors/RAM for communications - since light does not have limitations copper has.


    Although optics would most likely have superior latency and bandwidth, data deteriorate faster over very short distances (like less than a few centimeters) on optics than copper.
  • 1 Hide
    11796pcs , July 28, 2012 7:59 PM
    Quote:
    The laser was built using a 30 nm gallium nitride nanorod that is partially filled with indium gallium nitride.

    Sorry Tom's, you lost me there.
  • 0 Hide
    fazers_on_stun , July 29, 2012 5:04 PM
    IIRC copper conducts electrical signals at around 2/3rds the speed of light in a vacuum - so that's 2 x 10^8 meters per second as opposed to 3 x 10^8 m/s - still pretty fast in my book :p .

    From what I've read, the big problem in optical processing is switching or steering the light signals into the correct logic (directional) path without having to transduce it to an electrical signal, gating it to the appropriate output, and then transducing it back to an optical signal. If that can be done cheaply and efficiently, then we're talking processing speeds in the terahertz range as opposed to a few GHz as with electrical CPUs or GPUs. Basically optical switching uses input optical signals to gate or switch optical output signals, requiring much less power and having switching times orders of magnitude less than their CMOS logic gate counterparts.

    However this seems to be yet another 'promising' technology always stuck in the lab, sorta like those infamous carbon nanotube enhanced batteries that DailyTech and THG used to go on and on about for years. Still waiting on that 48-hour battery that seemed to be "right around the corner" back in 2008, BTW... :p 
  • 1 Hide
    eddieroolz , July 30, 2012 9:22 PM
    The amount of science in this single post is astonishing.