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Stanford physicists demonstrate low-power polariton laser

23 May 2013

The new laser system would use a hundredth the power of conventional lasers and could one day be used in many applications, from consumer goods to quantum computers.

Physicist Na Young Kim, at the optical bench, is a member of the international team that has demonstrated a revolutionary electrically driven polariton laser

The physics underlying lasers has remained relatively unchanged for 50 years. Now, an international research team, led by Stanford's Professor Yoshihisa Yamamoto, has demonstrated a novel electrically driven polariton laser that could significantly improve upon the efficiency of these ubiquitous devices.

The system makes use of the physical properties of bosons, subatomic particles that scientists have attempted to incorporate into lasers for decades.

"We've solidified our physical understanding, and now it's time we think about how to put these lasers into practice," said physicist Na Young Kim, a member of the Stanford team. "This is an exciting era to imagine how this new physics can lead to novel engineering."

One benefit of the electrically driven polariton laser is it only needs to be attached to a power supply to emit photons, allowing it to be easily integrated with existing semiconductor chips in the future. However, the current polariton laser can run only at a temperature of 4K and requires constant cooling with liquid helium.

The team hopes that their work will eventually lead to polariton lasers that work at room temperature, an important step toward their widespread use.

The polariton laser is already being utilised by Stanford researchers developing quantum computers and quantum simulators. Kim believes similar lasers will be available to those outside the scientific community within the next five to ten years.

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