Riverside Bourns in zinc nanowire laser breakthrough - Riverside Bourns College of Engineering

Scientists believe they have made a breakthrough in zinc nanowire technology.

The researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering claim they have cracked a long lasting problem. People in the zinc oxide research community, which we hear is bustling, have, according to the team, been struggling with over the last decade.

In theory, zinc oxide nanowires could be used in lasers. However, the scientists, led by Professor Jianlin Liu, say until they came up with their research the technology was defunct. They said it couldn't be used in light emissions because of a lack of p-type material, which is needed to power semiconductors.

They began to scratch their heads. Finally, Professor Liu had a lightbulb moment and decided to coat the nanowires with antimony. Apparently, because the coating was a metalloid element, the mix created the much needed p-type material.

Using this new mix, the team connected the zinc oxide nanowires with n-type - also known as negative type - zinc oxide material. Together the pairing created what the scientists call "p-n junction diode," which when powered by a standard battery can create a directional laser light.

They say the discovery is "likely to stimulate the whole field to push the technology further," and create smaller sized, lower cost lasers which have a higher power and shorter wave lengths.
 
And the scientists have got all excited, claiming that the lasers can "potentially do everything". And they mean everything, from killing viruses to increasing storage capacity of DVDs.

For information storage, the zinc oxide nanowire lasers would be used in the read and write stage to create DVDs that could store six hours of data over the standard two. This is because the ultraviolet laser has a shorter wavelength.

In biology, the scientists have said that the ultra-small laser light beam from a nanowire laser can zap a living cell and change it from a bad cell to good.

As always, the research is still in its study stages - meaning we'll have to wait and see that little bit longer.