Researchers from Intel Corporation have
improved their all-silicon laser so that it produces a continuous beam
Useful lasers made from silicon would make it possible to move
data between and within computer chips using light rather than electricity.
This would make for faster chips that could be more tightly integrated
with optical communications equipment.
Silicon lasers also promise to be relatively inexpensive because
they can be produced using existing chip-making facilities.
The silicon laser takes advantage of the Raman effect, which takes
place when photons scatter off of energized atoms. The Raman effect is
10,000 times larger in silicon than in an ordinary glass fiber.
The researchers previously produced a pulsed silicon laser. They
optimized the design of the silicon waveguide that serves as the cavity
that amplifies light by sandwiching it between areas of silicon that are
altered, or doped, to favor positive or negative electric charges. This
forms a type of diode that reduces the amount of energy lost by absorption
into the silicon.
The continuous silicon laser could eventually be used in optical
amplifiers, optical switches, networking, and medical, sensing and chemical
analysis applications, according to the researchers.
It is difficult to predict when the silicon laser will be ready
for practical use, according to the researchers. The work appeared in
the February 17, 2005 issue of Nature.
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