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Small, Electric-Powered Nano-Lasers May Help Keep Moore’s Law Valid

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An active laser.

A new electrically powered nano-laser would let developers pack even more lasers into the same space, boosting processing speeds.

Credit: Andrea Pacelli

A research team at Arizona State University (ASU) says a seven-year project has resulted in an electrically powered nano-laser that would let developers put even more lasers in the same space, thereby achieving greater processing speeds and ultimately making it possible to build future generations of computers in compliance with Moore's Law.

For nano-lasers to be useful in electronic and photonic technologies, it is necessary that the laser operate at room temperature without a cooling system, be powered by a simple battery instead of another laser light source, and be able to emit light continuously.

Previous experiments with electrically powered nano-lasers failed mostly due overheating problems, says ASU professor Cun-Zheng Ning, who led the research team. He notes their approach uses the same silicon nitride (SiN) insulating layer in a previous mockup, which failed due to overheating.

"When the team refined the fabrication process and adjusted the thickness of the SiN layer, the heat dissipated at a much faster rate--enough to keep the nanolaser in continuous operation," Ning says. "In terms of fundamental science, it shows for the first time that metal heating loss is not an insurmountable barrier for room-temperature operation of a metallic cavity nanolaser under electrical injection."

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