U-M Researchers Develop More Efficient Alternative to Conventional Lasers


tResearchers at the University of Michigan have developed a potential alternative to traditional lasers that may ultimately lead to smaller, more powerful electronics and have applications for medical devices and treatments.

tThe U-M technology operates on 250 times less electricity and is believed to be the most practical version of polariton lasers — which use laser-like beams in a more efficient way than conventional lasers — ever developed.

t“This is big (news),” says Pallab Bhattacharya, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at U-M. “For the past 50 years, we have relied on lasers to make coherent light and now we have something else based on a totally new principle.”

tBhattacharya says the system isn’t technically a laser, initially an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Polariton lasers don’t stimulate radiation emission, they stimulate scattering of polaritons, which are made up of both light and matter.

tHe says the development could advance efforts to put lasers on computer circuits to replace wire connections, leading to smaller, more powerful electronics and applications in medical devices and treatments.

t“We’re thrilled,” says Thomas Frost, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering. “This is the first really practical polariton laser that could be used on chip for real applications.”

tA paper about the project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will be published online in Physical Review Letters on Tuesday.