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World's Thinnest Semiconductor Featured in New Nanolaser

Scientists claim their nanometer-sized laser employs the thinnest semiconductor available today.

Kristopher Sturgis

Nanolaser configuration
The semiconductor is 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

A nanometer-sized laser uses a tungsten-based semiconductor only three atoms thick--making it reportedly more energy efficient, easier to build, and more compatible with modern electronics, according to the researchers at the University of Washington and Stanford University.

The researchers boast the semiconductor is the world's thinnest--about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair. The semiconductor is employed as the gain material that emits light. It does so quite efficiently, and has already been doing the same for transistors, light-emitting diodes, and solar cells, according to a university news release.

Nanolasers have a range of potential applications within the realm of medical technology, specifically when it comes to next-gen computing and implantable microchip technologies. While it remains to be seen whether implantable microchips will truly be the next step in health monitoring, it seems that next-gen computing can lead to an enhancement across the board in medical devices, including diagnostics and treatment technologies.

Beyond its size and efficiency, the other sizeable benefit is that this technology can be easily fabricated, and can potentially work with silicon components commonly found in modern electronics. Finding semiconductor materials that can work seamlessly with electronics is one of the ultimate endgames, as it could lead to electronics that waste less power, process information faster, and potentially increase their efficiency.

The technology also could give electronic makers more control over scalability, and the ability to manipulate the properties of the semiconductor. Using a separate atomic sheet as the gain material offers more versatility with the nanolaser, which researchers hope can lead to devices that can run faster while consuming less energy.

The team plans to begin investigating photon statistics to establish the coherent properties of the laser's light, as they continue to look for ways to enhance efficiency while expanding its capabilities.

Refresh your medical device industry knowledge at BIOMEDevice Boston, May 6-7, 2015.

Kristopher Sturgis is a contributor to MPMN and Qmed

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