Microlasers get even smaller
Nov 13, 1998
A new class of microlaser based zeolite materials could revolutionise quantum optics. Zeolites are aluminium-silicate compounds that contain millions of tiny pores. Now German physicists have developed a laser that works by trapping organic dye molecules inside these pores (submitted to Physical Review Letters). The pores have dimensions comparable with the wavelength of the radiation emitted by the laser and act as natural amplifiers. Potential applications for wavelength-size lasers include computer and television displays.
Attempts to scale down current laser designs have been made before, but the devices were not efficient enough for real applications. Now a group of researchers from Darmstadt University of Technology, the University of Frankfurt and IMM in Mainz have found a zeolite that can trap the dye molecules with the correct alignment and orientation for lasing. The team trap Pyridine 2 molecules, which have a width of 0.6 nm, inside the zeolite known as AIPO4-5, which has cavities 0.73 nm wide.
The researchers used light from a standard Nd:YAG laser to excite the dye. When the energy went above a certain threshold, they detected a series of strong fluorescent energy spikes, indicating that the zeolite was acting as a laser. The zeolite dye laser is three times smaller than the smallest dye lasers constructed to date.