Lightspeed chips get boost with smallest semiconductor laser

In a bid to enable a world of ultrafast photonics-based chips, scientists in the US have developed the smallest semiconductor laser to date.

Photonics chips are considered one way to ensure computer chips become increasingly powerful in future, with light used to communicate information far faster than relatively sluggish electrons.

Furthermore, light-based on chip communications would not generate heat in the way that conventional electronic devices do, a substantial concern as chips shrink in line with Moore’s Law.

Actually developing working systems and relevant on-chip components is tricky however, and is the focus of research in many labs.

Now researchers at the University of Texas believe that they have made a big step towards enabling photonics systems with what they claim in is the smallest laser in the world using semiconductor materials.

Developed alongside universities in Taiwan and China, the nano laser, invisible to the human eye, could help form the basis of future photonics chips by closing the size gap between electronic and photonic components that currently exists.

This has been one of the main barrier to incorporating photonics devices onto chips in the past, the nanoscale device could change this.

The research team says that it has crucially managed to create a laser which can function below what is known as the three dimensional optical diffraction limit.  By creating a device that can operate well below this limit, the researchers claim the research will have a “large impact” on nanoscale technologies such as future photonics chips as well as a new generation of sensors.