Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers squeeze light out of quantum dots

06.04.2009
Physics breakthrough could lead to forward leaps in lasers, telecom and optical computing

McGill University researchers have successfully amplified light with so-called "colloidal quantum dots," a technology that had been written off by many as a dead-end.

Over the last 15 years, repeated quantum dot research efforts failed to deliver on expected improvements in amplification, and many researchers started to believe that an unknown but insurmountable law of physics was blocking their path. Essentially, they said, quantum dots would simply never work well for one of their primary applications.

However, after extensive research, Professor Patanjali (Pat) Kambhampati and colleagues at McGill University's Department of Chemistry determined that colloidal quantum dots do indeed amplify light as promised. The earlier disappointments were due to accidental roadblocks, not by any fundamental law of physics, the researchers said. Their results were published in the March 2009 issue of Physical Review Letters.

Colloidal quantum dots can actually be painted directly on to surfaces, and this breakthrough has enormous potential significance for the future of laser technology, and by extension, for telecommunications, next-generation optical computing and an innumerable array of other applications.

Lasers – beams of high-powered coherent light – have applications in dozens of fields, most notably in telecommunications, where they are used to transmit voice and data over fibre-optic cables. Like sound, radio waves or electricity, laser signals gradually lose power over distance and must be passed through an amplifier to maintain signal strength. Until now, the best available amplification technology was the quantum well, a thin sheet made of semi-conductor material which confines electrons to a one-dimensional plane, and consequently amplifies light. Colloidal quantum dots perform a similar function, but in a three-dimensional box-like structure instead of a flat sheet.

"Everyone expected this little box to be significantly better than a thin sheet," Kambhampati said. "You'd require less electrical power, and you wouldn't need to use arrays of expensive cooling racks. The idea was to make the lasing process as cheap as possible. But the expected results were not really there. So people said 'let's forget about the quantum dot' and they tried rods or onion shapes. It became a game of making a whole soup of different shapes and hoping one of them would work.

"In our view," he continued, "no one had figured out how the simple, prototypical quantum dot actually worked. And if you don't know that, how are you going to rationally construct a device out of it?"

In the end, Kambhampati and his colleagues discovered that the major problem lay in the way researchers had been powering their quantum dot amplifiers.

"We discovered that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the dots. If you weren't careful in your measurements, when powering the quantum dot, you would accidentally create a parasitic effect that would kill the amplification." he said. "Once we understood this, we were able to take a quantum dot that no one believed could amplify anything, and turned it into the most efficient amplifier ever measured, as far as I know."

ABOUT McGILL UNIVERSITY

McGill University, founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, is Canada's leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 33,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 160 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,000 francophones – with more than 6,200 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body.

Mark Shainblum | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mcgill.ca

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision
24.11.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond
23.11.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Lightning, with a chance of antimatter

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

A huge hydrogen generator at the Earth's core-mantle boundary

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Scientists find why CP El Niño is harder to predict than EP El Niño

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>