The UC Berkeley team 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," said Xiang Zhang, professor of mechanical engineering and director of UC Berkeley's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. The achievement helps enable the development of nanolasers that can probe, manipulate and characterize DNA molecules.
"What is particularly exciting about the plasmonic lasers is that they are solid state and fully compatible with semiconductor manufacturing, so they can be electrically pumped and fully integrated at chip-scale," said Volker Sorger, a Ph.D. student in Zhang's lab.
"Plasmon lasers represent an exciting class of coherent light sources capable of extremely small confinement," said Zhang. "This work can bridge the worlds of electronics and optics at truly molecular length scales."
Scientists hope to eventually shrink light down to the size of an electron's wavelength, which is about a nanometer, or one-billionth of a meter, so that the two can work together on equal footing.
"The advantages of optics over electronics are multifold," added Thomas Zentgraf, a post-doctoral fellow in Zhang's lab. "For example, devices will be more power efficient at the same time they offer increased speed or bandwidth."
COMPAMED.de; Source: University of California Berkeley