Could it be the technological leap that makes your next smartphone faster and cheaper?
Lasers produce a narrow, directional beam of light in which all light waves have very similar wavelengths. Shorter wavelengths have more energy.
According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States, lasers are created when electrons in atoms of optical materials such as glass, crystal or gas absorb energy in the form of light or electricity.
The extra energy excites electrons to move to a higher-energy orbit around an atom’s nucleus. When they return to their normal orbit, they emit light particles, called photons, that can be seen by the human eye.
The light waves in a laser beam are “coherent”, meaning that the beam of photons is moving in the same direction at the same wavelength.
Study co-author Ye Tian told the Shanghai Observer news outlet that the team found a way to sync electrons “like a team of Honor Guards” to generate more power.
“Imagine electrons as athletes wielding a boat. The team that can make big waves and generate high power will win the race. The best strategy is for all athletes to paddle in the same direction.”
In the study, Chinese scientists used a high-powered ultra-fast laser pulse to irradiate an iron wire with free electrons — energetic electrons not bound to matter.
The short pulse accelerated electrons to a high velocity down the wire, causing other electrons in the wire to emit electromagnetic waves with which the free-electron pulse interacted. The electrons then transfer energy to the waves and amplify them.
Judith Dawes, a professor of physics at Macquarie University in Australia who was not involved in the study, said the research “offers a complete rethink of how electron beams can be generated”.
“Electrons and light are linked together through a wave-like propagation of electrons moving in a wire,” said Dawes, who researches the interaction of light at the nanoscale.
He said New technology This enabled very compact light sources to operate in a broad spectrum of wavelengths, from radio waves to X-rays.
According to NASA, radio waves have the longest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from the length of a very tall building to the size of an atom, while X-rays have much shorter wavelengths, between 0.03 and 3 nanometers. it occurs.
Dawes said the new technology will find ready-made applications for better security screening and sensing. Body-scanning machines at airports, for example, use millimeter-wave technology.
“The prospect of repeating Zhang and colleagues’ findings with visible radiation is particularly exciting, as it can be highly compact.” amplified light sourceHarvard University physicist Nicolas Rivera wrote in an accompanying commentary published by Nature.
“This may be particularly useful in materials, such as silicon, that are widespread and easily fabricated, but it has so far proved challenging to use as a media for lasers,” he said.
David Gozzard of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia, who was not involved in the study, echoed its potential application in silicon.
He pointed to smartphones, which contain computers, memory, motion sensors and cameras – all based on silicon.
“The more types of devices we can engineer from silicon, the smaller and cheaper we can make a huge variety of sensors and equipment,” he said.
“with further refinements, and to find ways to generate higher frequencies” [visible] Lightweight, tiny silicon-based lasers made from this technology will find their way into phones and other devices for high speed communication and precision sensors. ,
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