Patents for microlasers
Jan 15, 1999
The US Patent Office has awarded three patents related to microcavity semiconductor lasers - the smallest production lasers in the world - to researchers at Northwestern University in the US. The Northwestern team has devised ways to make the lasers by exploiting techniques that are widely used in the semiconductor industry. Previously such lasers were made by doping zeolite - an aluminium-silicate mineral compound - with dye. The breakthrough should make it easier to integrate electronics and optics in single devices. The lasers should be useful in applications such as high-speed communications, optical signal processing and optical computing devices.
The world-wide patent rights have been licensed by the university to Nanovation Technologies in Florida. The company hopes to develop an optical circuit which would contain thousands of microcavity lasers on a single semiconductor chip. Tests carried out by the company at Northwestern suggest that such a chip could increase the speed and information capacity of existing chip technology by at least a hundred-fold. In return for the patent rights Nanovation Technologies financed the construction of a state-of-the-art nanofabrication laboratory and clean room on the university campus - the first such facility dedicated to nanophotonics research in the US.