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Posted: Jul 05, 2016
A little impurity makes nanolasers shine
(Nanowerk News) Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have improved the performance of tiny lasers by adding impurities, in a discovery which will be central to the development of low-cost biomedical sensors, quantum computing, and a faster internet.
Researcher Tim Burgess added atoms of zinc to lasers one hundredth the diameter of a human hair and made of gallium arsenide - a material used extensively in smartphones and other electronic devices.
The impurities led to a 100 times improvement in the amount of light from the lasers.
This is Tim Burgess with a silicon wafer on which nanostructures are grown. (Image: Stuart Hay, ANU)
"Normally you wouldn't even bother looking for light from nanocrystals of gallium arsenide - we were initially adding zinc simply to improve the electrical conductivity," said Mr Burgess, a PhD student in the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
"It was only when I happened to check for light emission that I realised we were onto something."
Gallium arsenide is a common material used in smartphones, photovoltaic cells, lasers and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), but is challenging to work with at the nanoscale as the material requires a surface coating before it will produce light.
Previous ANU studies have shown how to fabricate suitable coatings.