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article imageSuper fast lasers break world record

By Tim Sandle     Sep 29, 2014 in Science
London - Researchers have engineered a record-breaking laser that accelerates the interaction between light and matter by over 10 times.
Scientists based at Imperial College, London and the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, in Germany, have used special semiconductor nanowires to develop ultra-fast lasers. The nanowires have been made from zinc oxide and they interface with a silver based material.
The silver material enabled the nanowire lasers to be reduced down to a minuscule size: 120 nanometres in diameter. This size is equivalent to just a thousandth of the diameter of human hair. This was achieved through the application of surface plasmons. These are wave-like motions of excited electrons found at the surface of metals. The charge motion in a surface plasmon always creates electromagnetic fields outside (as well as inside) the metal. In other applications, surface plasmons have been used to control colors of materials.
With the new study, scientists used surface plasmons to squeeze light into a much smaller space inside a laser. This squeezing process allowed the light to interact more strongly with the zinc oxide than would be possible under standard conditions. The experiment was conducted at room temperature.
In trials the laser could be turned on and off to 10 times faster than in any previous study, shorter than one trillionth of a second. This means that the newly described lasers are the fastest ever recorded. Some scientists have suggested that these lasers should be given a new name, with SPASERs (Surface Plasmon Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) the leading term (laser is an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation").
While this is interesting for physicists, there is a potential practical application too. Such technology could be used to improve communication technology by allowing for much faster data connection speeds and data transfer.
The research has been published in the journal Nature Physics. The paper is called "Ultrafast plasmonic nanowire lasers near the surface plasmon frequency."
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