Air Force Office of Scientific Research and National Science Foundation-funded professor, Dr. Xiang Zhang has demonstrated at the University of California, Berkeley the world's smallest semiconductor laser, which may have applications to the Air Force in communications, computing and bio-hazard detection.
The semiconductor, called a plasmon, can focus light the size of a single protein in a space that is smaller than half its wavelength while maintaining laser-like qualities that allow it to not dissipate over time.
* potential to eliminate optical loss and make plasmonic-based technologies viable for a broad spectrum of applications
* solution combined semi-conductor nanowires one-thousand times thinner than a human hair with a metal surface separated by an insulating gap of only five nanometers, the size of a single protein molecule
* The next generation of plasmonic lasers called nanolasers are even expected to be able to probe and manipulate molecules. They will be of interest to the Air Force because they will advance ultra-sensitive bio-detection, nanoscale optics and enhanced communication systems
* Nanolasers will also benefit healthcare, optics-based telecommunications and optical computing.