In the push toward ever-smaller and ever-faster data transmission technology, a team of Stanford electrical engineers has produced a nanoscale laser that is much faster and vastly more energy efficient than anything available today.
|The wafer's holes 'act like a hall of mirrors to reflect photons back toward the center of the laser,' said Jelena Vuckovic, an associate professor of electrical engineering. (Photo: Courtesy of Jelena Vuckovic) |
To the Silicon Valley mantra of "faster, smaller" semiconductors, you can now add "more efficient." The electrical data interconnections inside the computers of America's massive datacenters consume huge amounts of electricity, and there is a technological drive afoot to reduce that consumption.
To that end, Stanford researchers have unveiled a tiny, highly efficient semiconductor laser that could herald a new era in low-energy data interconnects that communicate with light as well as electrons.
"Today's electrical data transmission circuits require a lot of energy to transmit a bit of information and are, relatively speaking, slow," said Jelena Vuckovic, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford working on the new generation of nanoscale lasers.
She and her team – including Stanford graduate students Bryan Ellis and Gary Shambat, in collaboration with the research groups of James Harris at Stanford and Eugene Haller at the University of California-Berkeley – introduced their laser in a paper just published in Nature Photonics.
Crossing the threshold
Vuckovic is working on a type of data transmitter known as a photonic-crystal laser. These lasers are particularly promising, not just for their speed and size, but because they operate at low thresholds – they don't use much energy.