Feeds

Texan scientists create tiny, tiny laser

Boon for on-chip optics

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The University of Texas at Austin has unveiled a laser built from a 28 nanometer rod and a 5 nm silicon dioxide layer.

Despite the diminutive dimensions, the laser offers a lengthy stride It is, however, offering a good step forward in using optical communications between and within electronics. One of the challenges for a designer wanting on-chip optics is that optical components are generally bigger than the electronics they support.

The problem is more fundamental than component size: rather, it’s about the scale of light waves and how they behave – in particular, the way that surface irregularities scatter the light (which influences what’s known as the 3D diffraction limit).

The university has spent 15 years working on this problem, and has published a paper in Science (abstract) claiming to have developed a nanoscale laser that operates “well below the 3D diffraction limit”, according to physics professor Ken Shih.

The tiny laser uses a gallium nitride nanoscale rod partly filled with indium gallium nitride. This sits on a silicon insulator covering a silver film described as being “smooth at the atomic level”.

That smoothness, the scientists say, is what protects the resulting plasmon beam from scattering.

Replacing on-chip electronic communication with optical paths reduces the amount of heat that the chip generates. Heat build-up is one of the factors that boffins have to overcome if they’re to keep chips merrily following Moore’s Law for a few years longer – since as features get smaller, they cram more heat-generating components into a smaller space.

On-chip optics would leave more of a chip’s “heat budget” available for the transistors that do the work – but only if you can create optical features whose size is suitable for fabricating into the chip. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.