Scientists Develop First Tunable Nanoscale Liquid Laser

Researchers at Duke University and Northwestern University have teamed up to develop the first-ever liquid nanoscale laser. Of interest, the new laser is tunable in real time, so that it can be quickly and simply reset to produce different colors. Scientists point out that this color-changing ability could lead to a number of useful practical applications.

Moreover, the new liquid nanolaser is simple to make, inexpensive to produce and can be used at room temperature. The scientists note it’s possible the new technology could eventually be used in a new type of medical diagnostic “lab on a chip”.

The new liquid laser is described in an article in the April 20th edition of the academic journal Nature Communications.

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Statement from lead researcher

“Our study allows us to think about new laser designs and what could be possible if they could actually be made,” lead researcher Teri Odom noted in a statement last Friday. “My lab likes to go after new materials, new structures and new ways of putting them together to achieve things not yet imagined. We believe this work represents a conceptual and practical engineering advance for on-demand, reversible control of light from nanoscopic sources.”

More on new nanoscale liquid laser

Keep in mind that the liquid nanolaser in this study is not a simple laser pointer, but a laser device on a chip. This means the color of the laser can be changed in real time as the liquid dye in the microfluidic channel above the laser cavity is switched.

The cavity of the new liquid laser comprises an array of reflective gold nanoparticles. The light input into the cavity is concentrated around each nanoparticle and then amplified (no mirrors are required). The nanoparticle cavity remains fixed during the color change process, only the liquid dye around the nanoparticles changes.

Very small lasers offer a number advantages over smaller lasers. For example, they can be used as on-chip light sources for optoelectronic integrated circuits; they can be used in optical data storage and lithography; they can operate reliably at a single wavelength; and they typically operate much faster than conventional lasers given they are composed of metals.