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Nanoscale Lasers Come In Out of the Cold

Ultratiny light emitters no longer need high power and low temperatures

2 min read

24 February 2012—Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, reported in the journal Nature earlier this month that they have invented a new kind of nanometer-size laser that requires much less power to generate a coherent beam than previous designs. This type of laser could finally make it practical to use light instead of electricity to send terabits of data between different parts of a computer processor, the researchers suggest.

Because of the nanolaser’s negligible power needs, it can be modulated much more quickly than existing lasers, allowing information to be encoded directly onto the beam, says Mercedeh Khajavikhan, a postdoctoral researcher who is a member of UCSD’s Ultrafast and Nanoscale Optics Group, which made the breakthrough. “[It] can also become a backbone for future communication devices,” she says. The UCSD group, which is working on integrating nanophotonics with CMOS electronics, envisions other applications for the nanolaser design: It could be used in ultrahigh-resolution imaging and for figuring out the chemical makeup of a material at a distance.

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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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