Scientists Shatter Record with 10 Times Faster Lasers

Scientists Shatter Record with 10 Times Faster Lasers

Military laser experiment

Physicists from Imperial College London and the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena have developed a laser capable of switching on and off 10 times faster than was previously possible.

In a new paper published in Nature Physics, a team of scientists reported the results of their experimentation with record-breaking laser technology. Using an incredibly thin wire just 120 nanometers wide - a human hair is about 90,000 nanometers wide - and the concept of "plasmons," the team shrunk a laser into a much more tightly focused beam than usual. This tighter focus made the beam interact with the wire more strongly, which accelerated the rate at which the laser could be turned on and off by a factor of ten. In terms of the speed at which they can be turned on and off, these are the fastest lasers ever recorded.

Lead author Themis Sidiropoulos, who is currently completing his PhD in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, explains that the implications for communications technology are important. "Turning a laser on and off quicker means more information carrying 1s and 0s per second, allowing much faster data communications," he says. "In fact, these lasers are so much faster than conventional electronics that we had to develop an optical switching method to measure their speed."

A plasmon is a discrete oscillation of plasma - a wave-like motion of excited electrons. Interactions between light and matter are generally slow, but when light binds to these oscillations, these interactions are accelerated. Plasmons occur on the surface of metals, and the team placed their nanowire on a silver plate to generate plasmons.

This new record may be a lasting one. PhD student Robert Röder, from Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena believes that the team reached the physical limits of how fast the laser can be turned on and off. "This is not only a 'world record' regarding the switching speed," he said. "Most likely, we also achieved the maximum possible speed at which such a semiconductor laser can be operated."

Source: Imperial London College

Permalink

I feel betrayed by a titular obstruction. If only I had a laser fine enough to cut through it.

Because I definitely went into this going "So uh, they broke physical laws and uh... You know... Made light travel ten times faster. Right."

In hindsight, that was my fault.

EDIT: Oh right, cool I guess. Lasers.

Awesome, one less research requirement for XCOM when the aliens invade next year!

...Oh, they're used for data. Well, that's still pretty cool.

Neverhoodian:
Awesome, one less research requirement for XCOM when the aliens invade next year!

...Oh, they're used for data. Well, that's still pretty cool.

Well look it at this way, it's research efficiency/speed upgrade.

Akisa:

Neverhoodian:
Awesome, one less research requirement for XCOM when the aliens invade next year!

...Oh, they're used for data. Well, that's still pretty cool.

Well look it at this way, it's research efficiency/speed upgrade.

Indeed. No need to capture a Sectoid for interrogation, I suppose. Sorry South America, now there's even less of a reason to build the HQ in your continent.

Still no laserswords?
C'mon science, don't keep me waiting!!!

Pretty cool stuff though, funny how the say they got to the "maximum capacity", most likely this record will be broken within ten years. I'd hope so at least, that means progress :)

Oh. Well, good. Keep it up, boffins!

I was reading the title and thought to myself "Don't lasers already travel at the speed of light?" :P

Being a pedant, I feel I should point out that the journal "Nature Physics" is not the same as the journal "Nature", though they are both published by the "Nature Publishing Group" (NPG). It is misleading to conflate the former with the latter.

Go European Science! woo,

P.s does this mean terabyte download speeds now?

bfgmetalhead:
Go European Science! woo,

P.s does this mean terabyte download speeds now?

Meh. This kind of technique is useless for private use for now, unless you have some horrible monostrocity of a computer, just because the components in your computer (HDDs and the bus specifically) just cannot handle such data transfer speeds.

Why wouldn't you actually include this new speed they have achieved in this article? Seems kind of weird to mention the diameter of the wire used and include a comparison to make it easier to understand and then not actually give us a number for the "speed" of this new laser.

For those curious, the abstract says they achieved pulses of less then 800 fs (that's femtoseconds). Assuming this can be sustained it would result in signals in the terahertz range.

Dear Escapist, while this is cool, please add "switch" to the end of the title, for journalism sake.

thanks.

Cool stuff. But even knowing literally nothing about the physics of semiconductors, I would bet almost anything that this isn't true:

Rhykker:
"This is not only a 'world record' regarding the switching speed, Most likely, we also achieved the maximum possible speed at which such a semiconductor laser can be operated."

Pretty much any time someone breaks a seemingly impassable barrier, someone else finds a way to get a bit better shortly afterwards.

And the first thing i said out loud after reading the title "PEW PEEW"

Wake me up when we get laser guns.

Lukeje:
Being a pedant, I feel I should point out that the journal "Nature Physics" is not the same as the journal "Nature", though they are both published by the "Nature Publishing Group" (NPG). It is misleading to conflate the former with the latter.

You are absolutely correct; fixed!

Wow, for a second there I was going to come in and comment: "Faster lasers? What nonsense. It's light-speed!" But, of course, it's about switching on faster. Maybe it's just me, but the title confused me for a second.

Makes me wonder what the (theoreticall) data transfer speed will be. A really interest read.

Guffe:
Still no laserswords?
C'mon science, don't keep me waiting!!!

Pretty cool stuff though, funny how the say they got to the "maximum capacity", most likely this record will be broken within ten years. I'd hope so at least, that means progress :)

The thing is, it took more than ten years between when the guy first discovered the technology to create a blue laser and when blu-ray technology became readily available. I figure within the next six years or so they will be able to begin manufacturing this for non-scientific purposes, but we won't see it really implemented for about ten years. By then something better may have come along, or maybe not.

When they say they think they have hit a theoretical limit, that will spur others to look into it, but that doesn't mean they will be able to find a breakthrough as fast as these guys did.

Ooooh. It's like an upgrade from Large Lasers to Pulse Lasers.

The context here is lacking. Of course, that's the inital press release - not The Escapists's fault.

It doesn't make sense to state that "shrink[ing] their nanowire lasers down to just 120 nanometres in diameter" constitutes a "world record speed". We can compare that to commercially available systems which create pulses 800 nm wide, which is somewhat more helpful.

Or better yet, we can divide 120 nm by the speed of light turns up 0.4 femtoseconds. Femtosecond lasers usually only go down to 30 fs. (One femtosecond is to a second as ten minutes is to the age of the universe.)

Except... if we look at the cited paper, they only talk about 800 fs pulses; the abstract suggests that the wires used in the laser are 120 nm in diameter, not the pulses.

I have no idea how this helps at all, but I have a CS professor who always says that whenever you read from disk, you die just a little, so I know faster data transfer is always a good thing. I guess this might make fiber optics better?

Rhykker:
"In fact, these lasers are so much faster than conventional electronics that we had to develop an optical switching method to measure their speed."

I'm always skeptical when I see that. Using unconventional methods of measuring has led to incorrect results in the past; I wonder how well they tested this newfangled "optical switching method" instrumentation against conventional electronics.

So how fast is it??? Is it just me or is the new record mentioned no where in the article. The one piece of information I wanted was unavailable.

Here's hoping this makes for faster load/write times in the near future. I spend hours waiting for data to be moved when I'm editing these days.

Thus proving the constant-acceleration of light particles thing shown by Japanese scientists when a beam of light returned from a mirror a fraction sooner than it left. Congratulations, we're pioneering FTL travel (or at least the conventional understanding of FTL as defined by the old standard which believes light to be at a constant speed, which is not true).

those sectoids wont know what hit 'em

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here