The First Anti-Laser: The Reverse Mohawk of the Photon World
Last summer, a team of scientists at Yale dreamed up blueprints for the world’s first anti-laser (a device that absorbs amplified light rather than emitting amplified light). It's great to come up with an idea, but it’s an entirely different thing to make the idea work in real life. Yet, the latest issue of Science published that Yale scientists have created a successful light-absorbing device for specific wavelengths, in the near-infrared range.
While lasers usually emit light from one or two ends of a device that amplifies photons until they produce electromagnetic radiation, the anti-laser or “coherent perfect absorber” points two lasers of similar wavelength at each other with a very thin slab of silicon in between them (silicon usually absorbs about 20% of light directed at it). The laser’s beams then canceled each other out in the absorbent silicon, where the light was turned into heat.
This new technology has great implications for how chip-processors will be built in the future, as anti-lasers can be used as switches and transducers (something that converts one type of energy to another type of energy). The only down side is that it’s a little bit more complicated that Harry Potter’s “Deluminator”. (Trivia bonus: Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.)
Megan Geuss is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area and masquerades as @MeganGeuss on Twitter.
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