Scientists Create World’s Tiniest Laser Squeezing Light

BERKELEY – A team of American scientists have created the world’s smallest laser by squeezing light into a space smaller than a protein molecule.

Project leader Xiang Zhang, a professor at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, says that the breakthrough heralds a revolution in optical technology.

The researcher believes that this advance may pave the way for “nanolasers” that can probe and manipulate DNA.

It may also prove helpful in creating super-fast computers and for telecommunications, the researcher says.

“This work shatters traditional notions of laser limits and makes a major advance towards applications in the biomedical, communications and computing fields,” the Scotsman quoted Prof. Zhang as saying.

According to Prof. Zhang, the new “plasmon” laser compresses light into a gap five nanometres wide, the size of a single protein molecule.

Plasmons are the wave-like motions of excited electrons on the surfaces of metals. Binding light to these oscillations allows it to be squeezed much further than normal.

“Plasmon lasers represent an exciting class of coherent light sources capable of extremely small confinement. This work can bridge the worlds of electronics and optics at truly molecular length scales,” said Prof. Zhang.

The research team behind this breakthrough hope that one day they will be able to shrink light down to the size of an electron’s wavelength, about one billionth of a metre.

A research article on their latest work has been published in the journal Nature.

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