Engineers find nanolasers for faster microprocessors

February 7th, 2011 - 2:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 7 (IANS) Engineers have found a way to grow nanolasers — lasers able to produce beams at nanoscale — directly onto a silicon surface, potentially opening the way to a new class of faster and more efficient microprocessors. “Our results impact a broad spectrum of scientific fields, including materials science, transistor technology, laser science, optoelectronics and optical physics,” said Connie Chang-Hasnain, the study’s principal investigator and computer sciences professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Increasing demands on electronics have sent researchers in search of better ways to harness the inherent ability of light particles to carry far more data than electrical signals can, the journal Nature Photonics reports.

Optical interconnects are seen as a solution to overcoming the communications bottleneck within and between computer chips, according to a University of California statement.

Because silicon is extremely deficient at generating light, engineers have turned to another class of materials known as III-V (pronounced “three-five”) semiconductors to create light-based components such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers.

But the researchers pointed out that marrying III-V with silicon to create a single opto-electronic chip has been problematic. For one, the atomic structures of the two materials are mismatched.

“Growing III-V semiconductor films on silicon is like forcing two incongruent puzzle pieces together,” said study author Roger Chen, who is a University of California, Berkeley, graduate in electrical engineering and computer sciences.

“It can be done, but the material gets damaged in the process.”

The researchers overcame this limitation by finding a way to grow nanopillars made of indium gallium arsenide, a III-V material, onto a silicon surface at the relatively cool temperature of 400 degrees Celsius.

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