Small, electric-powered nano-lasers may help keep Moore’s Law valid

Arizona State University researchers build nano-laser that could be used in future generations of computers

The illustration on the left shows the variations of light intensity within a nanolaser. The figure on the right shows schematically a nanolaser with a metallic cavity,   Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-03-barrier-room-temperature-electrically-powered-nanolasers.html#jCp
Some experts believe that the idea behind Moore's Law  -- that the number of transistors embedded on integrated circuits would double about every two years -- will ultimately fail as the difficulty of shrinking such technology any smaller will cause all sorts of untenable problems.

But a research team with Arizona State University this week said a seven year project has culminated with an electrically powered nano-laser that would let developers put ever more lasers into the same space, to achieve far greater processing speeds and ultimately making it makes possible to build future generations of computers that would comply with the Moore's Law theory.

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"Much of the research that led up to this breakthrough concerned nanolasers powered by larger light sources as opposed to being powered directly by electrical current. Light powered nano-lasers can readily operate at room temperature, but there was a problem relating to their practical application-they were not powered by electricity, and were therefore not a solution for electronic applications, simply because embedding an additional light source, to power the nanolasers, was impractical; actually negating whatever space you saved by using nanolasers in the first place," the researchers stated.

For nano-lasers to be useful in electronic and photonic technologies-it is necessary that the laser operates at room temperature- without a cooling system, that it be powered by a simple battery instead of by another laser light source, and that it is able to emit light continuously.  Previous experiments at electrically powered nano-lasers have failed due primarily to overheating, according to Dr. Cun-Zheng Ning who led the team of Arizona State University researchers.

Ning said his latest approach employed the "same indium phosphide/indium gallium arsenide/indium phosphide (InP/InGaAs/InP) rectangular core and the same silicon nitride (SiN) insulating layer-encapsulated in a silver shell-used 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."

"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; for a long time, many doubted if such operation is even possible at all," Ning said.

The research project was backed by the Defense Advanced Project Agency and by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

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