Scientists have turned a groundbreaking nano-laser theory into reality, offering a vastly quicker alternative to modern electronics.
Research being conducted in part by the Tel Aviv University has lead to the development of a device, known as a ‘Spaser’, into a practical tool which can be as small as is needed to support nanotechnologies of the future.
The original theory was patented back in 2003 by Prof David Bergman and Prof Mark Stockman, and now the Spaser, short for ‘surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’, is apparently on the verge of offering major breakthroughs in a variety of fields.
While the physical length of lasers cannot ordinarily be less than one half of the wavelength of its light, the Spaser can be significantly smaller, functioning on a nano-scale.
"It rhymes with laser, but our Spaser is different," says Prof. Bergman, who owns the patent with Prof Stockman. "Based on pure physics, it's like a laser, but much, much, much smaller."
This is because the Spaser uses surface plasma waves, whose wavelength can be much smaller than that of the light it produces, meaning that it can be less than 100 nanometers, or one-tenth of a micron long.
This is much less than the wavelength of visible light, explains Prof. Bergman.
It is though that Spasers are considered a critical component for future technologies based on nanophotonics, technologies that could lead to radical innovations in medicine and science.
One such example is that it could support computers and electronics that operate at speeds 100 times greater than today's devices, using light instead of electrons to communicate and compute.
More efficient solar energy collectors in renewable energy are another proposed application, as is a microscope so sensitive that it could see genetic base pairs in DNA.
Prof. Bergman believes the Spaser will extend the range of what’s possible in modern electronics and optical devices, well beyond today's computer chips and memories, he said.
According to the research team, made up of researchers from a number of universities worldwide, a practical prototype has already been constructed, while work is continuing on commercialisation.