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Stanford develops tiny, energy-efficient lasers

Sometimes less is more. Stanford researchers, led by associate professor of electrical engineering Jelena Vuckovic, have demonstrated this fact in developing tiny semiconductor lasers that use less energy than ever before.

The electrical data interconnections that are found in today’s computers take up lots of energy. Now, Vuckovic and her team have pioneered a new generation of lasers that are much more efficient than their predecessors. More specifically, Vuckovic is developing a photonic-crystal laser, which functions at low thresholds and does not consume much energy.

This development proves, for the first time, the feasibility of an electrically pumped laser that is both easy to create and energy efficient.

However, the newly introduced laser needs to address a number of concerns before it can go into widespread use. Chief among these concerns is the fact that the laser only works at relatively cold temperatures — 150 Kelvin and below.

Vuckovic and her team are nonetheless optimistic about future progress. Their goal is to come up with a laser that can work at room temperature without sacrificing energy efficiency.

The Stanford Graduate Fellowships, the Interconnect Focus Center and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research are funding these research efforts.

— An Le Nguyen