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January 13th, 2011
Researchers have cleared a major hurdle to the practical use of nanoscale lasers, opening the way to fundamentally new capabilities in biosensing, computing, and optical communications. A team at the University of California, Berkeley, has demonstrated the first semiconductor plasmon nanolaser, or "spaser," that can operate at room temperature.
Working with Berkeley mechanical-engineering professor Xiang Zhang, postdocs Ren-Min Ma and Rupert Oulton designed and demonstrated the new semiconductor spaser. It uses metals and semiconductors, long recognized to be attractive materials because of their ubiquity and resilience. But previous spasers made of them lost too much energy to sustain lasing unless cooled to extremely low temperatures, below -250 °C.
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