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Dual-color lasers could lead to cheap and efficient LED lighting

A new semiconductor device capable of emitting two distinct colours has been created by a group of researchers in the US, potentially opening up the possibility of using light emitting diodes (LEDs) universally for cheap and efficient lighting.

The proof-of-concept device, which has been presented today, 3 May, in IOP Publishing's journal Semiconductor Science and Technology, takes advantage of the latest nano-scale materials and processes to emit green and red light separated by a wavelength of 97 nanometres—a significantly larger bandwidth than a traditional semiconductor.

Furthermore, the device is much more energy efficient than traditional LEDs as the colours are emitted as lasers, meaning they emit a very sharp and specific spectral line—narrower than a fraction of a nanometre—compared to LEDs which emit colours in a broad bandwidth.

One of the main properties of semiconductors is that they emit light in a certain wavelength range, which has resulted in their widespread use in LEDs. The wavelength range in which a given semiconductor can emit light—also known as its bandwidth—is typically limited in the range of just tens of nanometres. For many applications such as lighting and illumination, the wavelength range needs to be over the entire visible spectrum and thus have a bandwidth of 300 nm.

Single semiconductor devices cannot emit across the entire visible spectrum and therefore need to be 'put' together to form a collection that can cover the entire range. This is very expensive and is, to a large extent, the reason why semiconductor LEDs are not yet used universally for lighting.

In this study, the researchers, from Arizona State University, used a process known as chemical vapour deposition to create a 41 micrometer-long nanosheet made from Cadmium Sulphide and Cadmium Selenide powders, using silicon as a substrate.

Lead author of the study, Professor Cun-Zheng Ning, said: "Semiconductors are traditionally 'grown' together layer-by- layer, on an atom-scale, using the so-called epitaxial growth of crystals. Since different semiconductor crystals typically have different lattice constants, layer-by-layer growth of different semiconductors will cause defects, stress, and ultimately bad crystals, killing light emission properties."

It is because of this that current LEDs cannot have different semiconductors within them to generate red, green and blue colours for lighting.

However, recent developments in the field of nanotechnology mean that structures such as nanowires, nanobelts and nanosheets can be grown to tolerate much larger mismatches of lattice structures, and thus allow very different semiconductors to grow together without too many defects.

"Multi-colour light emission from a single nanowire or nanobelt has been realized in the past but what is important in our paper is that we realized lasers at two distinct colours. To physically 'put' together several lasers of different colors is too costly to be useful and thus our proof-of concept experiment becomes interesting and potentially important technologically.

"In addition to being used for solid state lighting and full color displays, such technology can also be used as light sources for fluorescence bio and chemical detection," continued Professor Ning.

From Friday 3 May, this paper can be downloaded from

Notes to Editors
1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop.

IOP Publishing Journalist Area

2. The IOP Publishing Journalist Area ( gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week.

Login details also give free access to IOPscience, IOP Publishing's journal platform.

To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email Michael Bishop, IOP Press Officer,, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.

Simultaneous two-colour lasing in a single CdSSe heterostructure nanosheet

3. The published version of the paper 'Simultaneous two-colour lasing in a single CdSSe hetereostructure nanosheet' F Fan et al 2013 Semicond. Sci. Technol. 28 065005 will be freely available online from Friday 3 May. It will be available at

Semiconductor Science and Technology

4. Semiconductor Science and Technology is IOP's journal dedicated to semiconductor research. The journal publishes cutting-edge research on the physical properties of semiconductors and their applications.

IOP Publishing

5. IOP Publishing provides a range of journals, magazines, websites and services that enable researchers and research organisations to reach the widest possible audience for their research.

We combine the culture of a learned society with global reach and highly efficient and effective publishing systems and processes. With offices in the UK, US, Germany, China and Japan, and staff in many other locations including Mexico and Russia, we serve researchers in the physical and related sciences in all parts of the world.

IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Institute of Physics. The Institute is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all. Any profits generated by IOP Publishing are used by the Institute to support science and scientists in both the developed and developing world. Go to

The Institute of Physics

6. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications. Go to

Michael Bishop | EurekAlert!
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