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Breakthrough microlaser is easy to build and cheap

Scientists in Slovenia has made a breakthrough that has resulted in the world's first microlaser that emits in 3D. The new 3D microlaser was created at the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The laser that has been developed is small, tunable, and cheap to build making it the world's first practical 3D laser. The laser has been described in a recent issue of Optics Express and was developed by Matjaž Humar and Igor Muševic. The laser is a microdroplet 3D laser system that allows light to shine in all directions using a dye molecule lodged inside spherical drops of helical molecules that are dispersed in a liquid.

Muševic said, "This is the first practical 3-D laser ever produced." He believes that millions of the microdroplet lasers can be made in seconds and can then be used in coherent light emitters. The helical molecules used in the novel lasers are choleric liquid crystals that are similar to the key molecules used inside LCDs.

The molecules don’t mix well with the polymer liquid that surrounds them. The inability of the two to mix creates an index of refraction that varies periodically outward through the body of the 15 micron droplets. The researchers describe the molecules like an onion with the layers corresponding to materials with different index of refraction.

The active medium inside the new lasers is the florescent dye molecules that are inside the liquid crystals. The lasers are very easy to build because the molecules self assemble according to chemistry meaning that no fabrication process is needed.

"Scientists have been trying to make these lasers from solid state materials, but you can imagine how difficult it is to make hundreds of alternating shells of optical materials, which should be very uniform," said Muševic. "The beauty of our approach is that such a 3-D onion droplet is self-assembled in a fraction of a second."

The scientists also say that the laser can be tuned without needing to replace the droplets. Tuning can be done my modifying the temperature of the laser and possibly by applying an additional electric filed.





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