02-Dec-2009 - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zürich)

Scientists demonstrate multibeam, multi-functional lasers

Adaptable technology opens the door to a wide range of applications in chemical detection, climate monitoring and communications

An international team of applied scientists from Harvard, Hamamatsu Photonics, and ETH Zürich have demonstrated compact, multibeam, and multi-wavelength lasers emitting in the invisible part of the light spectrum (infrared). By contrast, typical lasers emit a single light beam of a well-defined wavelength. The innovative multibeam lasers have potential use in applications related to remote chemical sensing pollution monitoring, optical wireless, and interferometry.

The research was led by postdoctoral researcher Nanfang Yu and Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, both at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS); Hirofumi Kan, General Manager of the Laser Group at Hamamatsu Photonics; and Jérôme Faist, Professor at ETH Zürich. The findings appeared online in the October 23 issue of Applied Physics Letters and will appear as a December 7 cover story.

"We have demonstrated devices that can create highly directional laser beams pointing in different directions either at the same or at different wavelengths," says Capasso. "This could have major implications for parallel high-throughput monitoring of multiple chemicals in the atmosphere or on the ground and be used, for example, for studying hazardous trace gases and aerosols, monitoring greenhouse gases, detecting chemical agents on the battlefield, and mapping biomass levels in forests."

The more versatile laser is a descendant of the quantum cascade laser (QCL), invented and first demonstrated by Capasso, Faist, and their collaborators at Bell Labs in 1994. Commercially available QCLs, made by stacking ultra-thin atomic layers of semiconductor materials on top of one another, can be custom designed to emit a well -defined infrared wavelength for a specific application or be made to emit simultaneously multiple wavelengths. To achieve multiple beams, the researchers patterned the laser facet with metallic structures that behave as highly directional antennas and then beam the light in different directions.

"Having multibeam and multi-wavelength options will provide unprecedented flexibility. The ability to emit multiple wavelengths is ideal for generating a quantitative map of the concentration of multiple chemicals in the atmosphere," explains Kan. "Profiles of these atmospheric components—as a function of altitude or location—are critically important for environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, and climate modeling."

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • lasers
  • Hamamatsu Photonics
  • ETH Zürich
More about ETH Zürich
  • News

    Batteries for transporting mobility into the future

    From 0 to 100 km/h in 2.6 seconds. Top speeds of 120 km/h. All powered by just one battery. This is “julier”, the first electric race car to win the Formula Student competition in 2013 against cars with traditional combustion engines. Paul Baade was one of the brains behind the battery back ... more

    Changes in colour indicate deformations

    ETH Zurich researchers have developed a new type of laminate that changes colour as soon as the material is deformed. This way, the materials researchers can kill two birds with one stone: a lightweight composite material that inspects itself. Lightweight construction has found its way into ... more

    A promising breakthrough: Nanocrystals made of amalgam

    Researchers at ETH have managed to produce nanocrystals made of two different metals using an amalgamation process whereby a liquid metal penetrates a solid one. This new and surprisingly intuitive technique makes it possible to produce a vast array of intermetallic nanocrystals with tailor ... more

  • Videos

    Oxybromination of methane over vanadium phosphate

    ETH Zurich scientists have discovered a new catalyst that allows the easy conversion of natural gas constituents into precursors for the production of fuels or complex chemicals, such as polymers or pharmaceuticals. The new catalyst is extremely stable and results in fewer unwanted by-produ ... more

More about Harvard University
  • News

    Groundbreaking method to map the interaction between atomically thin layers

    When two atomically thin layers of a material are stacked and twisted slightly on top of one another, they can develop radically different properties. They may become superconducting or even develop magnetic or electronic properties due to the interaction of their two layers. The challenge ... more

    Ultracold mystery solved

    In a famous parable, three blind men encounter an elephant for the first time. Each touches a part--the trunk, ear, or side--and concludes the creature is a thick snake, fan, or wall. This elephant, said Kang-Kuen Ni, is like the quantum world. Scientists can only explore a cell of this vas ... more

    The coldest chemical reaction

    The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that painstakingly organized chaos, in temperatures millions of times colder than interstellar space, Kang-Kuen Ni achieved a feat of precision ... more

  • Videos

    A diamond radio receiver

    Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have made the world’s smallest radio receiver – built out of an assembly of atomic-scale defects in pink diamonds. This tiny radio — whose building blocks are the size of two atoms — can withstand extrem ... more

    A 3-D Material that Folds, Bends and Shrinks on its Own

    Harvard researchers have designed a new type of foldable material that is versatile, tunable and self actuated. It can change size, volume and shape; it can fold flat to withstand the weight of an elephant without breaking, and pop right back up to prepare for the next task. more

    New Polymers for Solar Power

    As part of the 2015–2016 Fellows’ Presentation Series at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Scott T. Milner RI ’16 discusses current trends in solar power, how solar cells work, and how polymer-based materials may offer an attractive alternative to silicon. more

More about Hamamatsu Photonics