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Nanolaser developed to treat neurological conditions

The new nanolaser not only carriers the potential to treat neurological disorders it may also be able to ‘sense’ disease biomarkers, and signal specific pathologies. For both applications the tiny laser has been shown, by developers at Northwestern University (U.S.), to be capable of functioning inside living tissues without damaging them.

The new lasers are very thin – only 50 to 150 nanometers thick. This means that a single laser beam is just 1/1,000th the thickness of a single human hair. This small scale means that a single laser can function inside living tissues. This makes the laser suitable for treating deep-brain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. The current method for carrying out deep brain stimulation involves the use of electrodes in specific, precisely-targeted regions of the brain, with the electrodes providing controlled electrical pulses.

According to lead researcher Dr. Teri Odom, more can be achieved with nanolasers: “shorter wavelengths of light are often desirable at those same deep areas.”

The researcher adds that: “We have designed an optically clean system that can effectively deliver visible laser light at penetration depths accessible to longer wavelengths.”

The technology involved is similar to that being applied as light for quantum photonics, in vivo cellular imaging, solid-state lighting and fast three-dimensional sensing in smartphones. With the technology, low-energy photons are absorbed and converted into one photon with higher energy.

The proof-of-accept study showed that the nanolasers or ‘plasmon-nanoarray upconverting lasers’ were capable of providing directional, ultra-stable output at visible frequencies. This paves the way for future applications within the medical field.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Materials, with the research paper titled “Ultralow-threshold, continuous-wave upconverting lasing from subwavelength plasmons.”

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