Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Breakthrough brings laser light to new regions of the spectrum

02.01.2003


Combining concepts from electromagnetic radiation research and fiber optics, researchers have created an extreme-ultraviolet, laser-like beam capable of producing tightly-focused light in a region of the electromagnetic spectrum not previously accessible to scientists. Between 10-100 times shorter than visible light waves, the extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths will allow researchers to "see" tiny features and carve miniature patterns, with applications in such fields as microscopy, lithography and nanotechnology.



The achievement is based on a new structure called a "waveguide," a hollow glass tube with internal humps that coax light waves into traveling along at the same speed and help the waves reinforce each other.

Reported in the January 2 issue of the journal Nature, the work is part of a continuing project supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent agency of the U.S. Government that supports science and engineering research and education.


The new beam has peak powers approaching a megawatt and produces nanometer-scale light waves, yet the entire apparatus fits on a moderately sized table.

Expanding upon earlier work, a team of researchers led by Henry Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane of JILA at the University of Colorado create EUV beams by firing a femtosecond laser through the gas-filled waveguide. A femtosecond is one quadrillionth -- 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 -- of a second, and a brief pulse of the laser can be measured in these tiny units. The intense laser light literally rips the gas atoms apart, resulting in charged ions and electrons. The laser beam then accelerates the electrons to very high energies and slams them back into the ions, releasing electromagnetic radiation (in this instance, photons at EUV wavelengths).

Some of the EUV waves can be out of phase with the laser, canceling each other and weakening the strength and coherence of the output beam. However, by creating ripples in the diameter of the waveguide, the Colorado team coaxed the light waves from the laser and EUV beams into traveling at the same speed (a result called "phase matching").

"These waveguide structures are amazingly simple – just a modulated, hollow glass tube," said Murnane. "It is as if the laser beam ’surfs’ on the modulations and is slowed down – just as the speed bumps on the road slow a car down very simply and very effectively," she added.

Slowing down the laser allows it to travel at the same speed as the EUV light and increases the efficiency of the process. The result is a well-synchronized stream of photons firing out of the system -- electromagnetic radiation boosted up to a high-energy, extreme ultraviolet, wavelength.

Unlike some room-sized counterparts, the new, laser-like, EUV source is smaller than any other EUV laser design at these very short wavelengths," said Kapteyn. "The waveguide fiber fits in one hand and the laser fits on a desktop," he added.

Moreover, the peak power of the beam is higher than any other light source at the wavelengths it achieves – all the way from the ultraviolet (UV) to the EUV region of the spectrum around 6 nanometers.

The Colorado group hopes to extend the beam’s range into what scientists call the "water-window" -- the region of the spectrum below 4 nanometers where the light is perfect for imaging biological structures. Producing a beam in this region would allow the researchers to build a small microscope for imaging living tissues on a desktop or for viewing objects at the nanoscale.

"In 10 years, laser light will span all the way to the x-ray region of the spectrum," speculated Kapteyn. "The light will be used for the most precise microscopes that we can imagine, allowing real-time movies of the complex dance that atoms weave in chemical reactions and in pharmaceuticals yet to be visualized," he added.

The research was principally supported by NSF, with additional funds from the Department of Energy. JILA is managed by both the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado.


###
For additional information, please see:

"Laser-Like Beam May Break Barriers to Technological Progress," NSF Release, http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/02/pr0260.htm

"X-rays light up chemical reactions," PhysicsWeb, July 2001, http://physicsweb.org/article/news/5/7/7

"Powerful Ultrafast Sources get Small," Laser Focus World, August 2001, http://lfw.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=Articles&Subsection=Display&ARTICLE_ID=113661

A profile of Margaret Murnane is available at: http://www.physicscentral.com/people/people-01-4.html

A profile of Henry Kapteyn is available at: http://jilawww.colorado.edu/~kapteyn/

JILA website: http://jilawww.colorado.edu/

For information on light and the electromagnetic spectrum, please see: http://www.howstuffworks.com/light.htm


Josh Chamot | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

nachricht New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers
21.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>