Princeton University researchers discover new type of laser

December 23, 2008

(ChattahBox) — Researchers at Princeton University have discovered an entirely new mechanism to generate laser light. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and find applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.

The new lasers were found after scientists working with a quantum cascade laser noticed an unexpected beam – and one that needed less power than a conventional laser beam.

Quantum cascade lasers are much smaller than the solid-state lasers found in DVD players. The one built at the Princeton’s nanofabrication facility, is about one-tenth as thick as a human hair and 3 millimeters long. Despite its tiny size, it is made of hundreds of layers of different semiconductor materials, each one just a few atoms thick.

The new type of laser is less sensitive to temperature changes and seems to run well at lower currents, characteristics that make it suitable for the next generation of medical devices and industrial sensors.

The team that conducted the study include Claire Gmachl, a professor of electrical engineering, who led the study, graduate student Kale Franz, who built the laser that revealed the new phenomenon, and Stefan Menzel, a graduate student from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, who unearthed the unique properties of the phenomenon during an internship at Princeton last summer. The study was published online Dec. 14 in Nature Photonics.


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