Researchers at Northwestern University have created a nanolaser that can be used in living tissues without harming them. Developed in conjunction with a team from Columbia University, the nanolaser can be 50 nm to 150 nm thick, which allows it to fit and fully function inside living tissues. “Our tiny lasers operate at powers that are orders of magnitude smaller than observed in any existing lasers,” said P. James Schuck, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia and co-leader of the study.
The nanolaser can operate in “extremely confined spaces” including quantum circuits and microprocessors for ultrafast and low-power electronics. It is made mainly of glass, which itself is biocompatible. The technology can also be excited by longer wavelengths of light while emitting at shorter wavelengths.
“Longer wavelengths of light are needed for bioimaging because they can penetrate farther into tissues than visible wavelength photons,” said Teri Odom, the study co-lead and the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “But shorter wavelengths of light are often desirable at those same deep areas. We have designed an optically clean system that can effectively deliver visible laser light at penetration depths accessible to longer wavelengths.”