Paint-on laser could rescue computer chip industry
Laser that could save computer industry from ’interconnect bottleneck’ uses quantum paint — and a hairdryer
Researchers at the University of Toronto have created a laser that could help save the $200-billion dollar computer chip industry from a looming crisis dubbed the "interconnect bottleneck."
But this isn’t a laser in the stereotypical sense -- no corded, clunky boxes projecting different coloured lights. In fact, Professor Ted Sargent, of the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, carries a small vial of the paint used to make this laser in his briefcase -- it looks like diluted ink.
Lasers that can produce coherent infrared light in the one to two nanometre wavelength range are essential in telecommunications, biomedical diagnosis and optical sensing. The speed and density of computer chips has risen exponentially over the years, and within 15 to 20 years the industry is expected to reach a point where components can’t get any faster. But the interconnect bottleneck -- the point where microchips reach their capacity -- is expected sometime around 2010.
To tackle this problem, Sargent, a Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology, created the new laser using colloidal quantum dots -- nanometre-sized particles of semiconductor that are suspended in a solvent like the particles in paint. "We’ve made a laser that can be smeared onto another material," says Sargent. "This is the first paint-on semiconductor laser to produce the invisible colours of light needed to carry information through fiber-optics. The infrared light could, in the future, be used to connect microprocessors on a silicon computer chip." A study describing the laser was published in the April 17 issue of the journal Optics Express.
According to Sjoerd Hoogland, a post-doctoral fellow and the first author of the paper, "this laser could help us to keep feeding the information-hungry Internet generation." The laser’s most remarkable feature was its simplicity. "I made the laser by dipping a miniature glass tube in the paint and then drying it with a hairdryer," he said. "Once the right nanoparticles are made, the procedure takes about five minutes."
The microchip industry is looking for components that exist on the scale of transistors and are made of semiconductors, which would produce light when exposed to electrical current. With this development, it could be possible to use the electronics already found on microchips to power a laser that communicates within the chip itself.
"We crystallized precisely the size of the nanoparticles that would tune the colour of light coming from the laser. We chose nanoparticle size, and thus colour, the way a guitarist chooses frets to select the pitch of the instrument," Hoogland said. "Optical data transfer relies on light in the infrared--beams of light 1.5 micrometers in wavelength travel farthest in glass. We made our particles just the right size to generate laser light at exactly this wavelength."
Lionel C. Kimerling, Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and director of the Microphotonics Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reviewed the work. "The wavelength and the thermal budget of the Toronto laser are very appealing for applications in optical interconnects," Kimerling says. "The performance is excellent, particularly the temperature insensitivity of the output wavelength."
Nicolle Wahl | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...