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Intel Makes a (Better) Silicon Laser

This one can operate continuously, allowing for practical use

2 min read

18 February 2005--Scientists at Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, Calif., disclosed on 16 February that they have built a silicon laser that goes beyond their effort of a month ago by operating continuously, a prerequisite for carrying digital information. The discovery could allow the integration of electronics and optics in silicon chips rather than in exotic-semiconductor chips, which are much more expensive to make. That way, PCs and even the chips inside them could converse over fiber-optic connections boasting bandwidths now seen only in long-haul telecommunications networks.

Intel found a way to overcome silicon's uncooperative nature. Many other materials respond to an intense light by emitting photons, which is the first step in the lasing process. Silicon, however, also produces stray electrons, which absorb the photons, quenching the laser. The problem is called two-photon absorption, because it takes collisions from two separate photons to knock an electron loose.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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