Splitting Hairs

Dr. Xiang Zhang, in Air Force Office of Scientific Research-sponsored research at the University of California, Berkeley, has demonstrated the world’s smallest semiconductor laser (also known as a plasmonic laser), which may have military applications in communications, computing, and bio-hazard detection. “Proposed almost seven years ago, researchers had been unable to demonstrate a working plasmonic laser until our experiment,” said Zhang. He said this work is important because it has the potential to make plasmonic-based technologies “viable for a broad spectrum of applications.” The experiment involved using semi-conductor nanowires 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. The next phase of this research is to create an electrically operated version of the laser, which can be fully integrated with semiconductors without design modification. (AFOSR report by Maria Callier)