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First practical polariton laser

First practical polariton laser

Researchers at the University of Michigan have demonstrated what is believed to be the first practical polariton laser, which makes light beams in a more efficient way than conventional lasers. To accomplish this, the researchers devised an innovative design that involved moving the required mirrors from the top and bottom of the device to the sides. In this graphic, the mirrors are represented by the gray bars, the yellow is the electrode through which the researchers stimulate the laser, and the purple is the gallium nitride semiconductor that is able to maintain ideal conditions for polaritons to form and release light.

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The attributes of the new polariton laser make the device the most real-world-ready of the handful of polariton lasers ever developed. The University of Michigan researchers say it represents a milestone not seen in the field since the invention of the most common type of laser, the semiconductor diode, created in the early 1960s. While the first lasers were made in the 1950s, it wasn't until the semiconductor version, fueled by electricity rather than light, came about that the technology took off.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this work could advance efforts to put lasers on computer circuits to replace wire connections, leading to smaller and more powerful electronics. It may also have applications in medical devices and treatments and more.

To learn more about this research, see the NSF News from the Field story A new way to make laser-like beams using 250x less power. (Date image taken: unknown; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: Aug. 28, 2017)

Credit: Thomas Frost
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