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Physicists make electrical nanolasers even smaller

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Electrically pumped surface plasmon-polariton nanolaser CREDIT
Dmitry Fedyanin
Electrically pumped surface plasmon-polariton nanolaser CREDIT
Dmitry Fedyanin

Abstract:
Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and King’s College London cleared the obstacle that had prevented the creation of electrically driven nanolasers for integrated circuits. The approach, reported in a recent paper in Nanophotonics, enables coherent light source design on the scale not only hundreds of times smaller than the thickness of a human hair but even smaller than the wavelength of light emitted by the laser. This lays the foundation for ultrafast optical data transfer in the manycore microprocessors expected to emerge in the near future.

Physicists make electrical nanolasers even smaller


Moscow, Russia | Posted on September 18th, 2020

Light signals revolutionized information technologies in the 1980s, when optical fibers started to replace copper wires, making data transmission orders of magnitude faster. Since optical communication relies on light — electromagnetic waves with a frequency of several hundred terahertz — it allows transferring terabytes of data every second through a single fiber, vastly outperforming electrical interconnects.

Fiber optics underlies the modern internet, but light could do much more for us. It could be put into action even inside the microprocessors of supercomputers, workstations, smartphones, and other devices. This requires using optical communication lines to interconnect the purely electronic components, such as processor cores. As a result, vast amounts of information could be transferred across the chip nearly instantaneously.

Getting rid of the limitation on data transmission will make it possible to directly improve microprocessor performance by stacking more processor cores, to the point of creating a 1,000-core processor that would be virtually 100 times faster than its 10-core counterpart, which is pursued by the semiconductor industry giants IBM, HP, Intel, Oracle, and others. This in turn will make it possible to design a true supercomputer on a single chip.

The challenge is to connect optics and electronics at the nanoscale. To achieve this, the optical components cannot be larger than hundreds of nanometers, which is about 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair. This size restriction also applies to on-chip lasers, which are necessary for converting information from electrical signals to optical pulses that carry the bits of the data.

However, light is a kind of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of hundreds of nanometers. And the quantum uncertainty principle says there is a certain minimum volume that light particles, or photons, can be localized in. It cannot be smaller than the cube of the wavelength. In crude terms, if one makes a laser too small, the photons will not fit into it. That said, there are ways around this restriction on the size of optical devices, which is known as the diffraction limit. The solution is to replace photons with surface plasmon-polaritons, or SPPs.

SPPs are collective oscillations of electrons that are confined to the surface of a metal and interact with the surrounding electromagnetic field. Only a few metals known as plasmonic metals are good to work with SPPs: gold, silver, copper, and aluminum. Just like photons, SPPs are electromagnetic waves, but at the same frequency they are much better localized — that is, they occupy less space. Using SPPs instead of photons makes it possible to “compress” light and thus overcome the diffraction limit.

The design of truly nanoscale plasmonic lasers is already possible with current technologies. However, these nanolasers are optically pumped, that is, they have to be illuminated with external bulky and high-power lasers. This may well be convenient for scientific experiments, but not outside the laboratory. An electronic chip intended for mass production and real-life applications has to incorporate hundreds of nanolasers and operate on an ordinary printed circuit board. A practical laser needs to be electrically pumped, or, in other words, powered by an ordinary battery or DC power supply. So far such lasers are only available as devices that operate at cryogenic temperatures, which is not suitable for most practical applications, since maintaining liquid nitrogen cooling is not typically possible.

The physicists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and King’s College London have proposed an alternative to the conventional way electrical pumping works. Usually the scheme of electrical pumping of nanolasers requires an ohmic contact made of titanium, chromium, or a similar metal. Moreover, that contact has to be a part of the resonator — the volume where the laser radiation is generated. The problem with that is titanium and chromium strongly absorb light, which harms resonator performance. Such lasers suffer from high pump current and are susceptible to overheating. This is why the need for cryogenic cooling emerges, along with all the inconveniences it entails.

The proposed new scheme for electrical pumping is based on a double heterostructure with a tunneling Schottky contact. It makes the ohmic contact with its strongly absorbing metal redundant. The pumping now happens across the interface between the plasmonic metal and semiconductor, along which SPPs propagate. “Our novel pumping approach makes it possible to bring the electrically driven laser to the nanoscale, while retaining its ability to operate at room temperature. At the same time, unlike other electrically pumped nanolasers, the radiation is effectively directed to a photonic or plasmonic waveguide, making the nanolaser fit for integrated circuits,” Dr. Dmitry Fedyanin from the Center for Photonics and 2D Materials at MIPT commented.

The plasmonic nanolaser proposed by the researchers is smaller — in each of its three dimensions — than the wavelength of the light it emits. Moreover, the volume occupied by SPPs in the nanolaser is 30 times smaller than the light wavelength cubed. According to the researchers, their room-temperature plasmonic nanolaser could be easily made even smaller, making its characteristics even more impressive, but that would come at the cost of the inability to effectively extract the radiation into a bus waveguide. Thus, while further miniaturization would render the device poorly applicable to on-chip integrated circuits, it would be still convenient for chemical and biological sensors and near-field optical spectroscopy or optogenetics.

Despite its nanoscale dimensions, the predicted output power of the nanolaser amounts to over 100 microwatts, which is comparable to much larger photonic lasers. Such a high output power allows each nanolaser to be used to transmit hundreds of gigabits per second, eliminating one of the most formidable obstacles to higher-performance microchips. And that includes all sorts of hi-end computing devices: supercomputer processors, graphic processors, and perhaps even some gadgets to be invented in the future.

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The study was supported by a grant of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.

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Nano Technology

The Process of Reaction Injection Molding

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This guide to the process of reaction injection molding will help you determine if the popular and advantageous molding method is suited to your application.

Reaction injection molding (RIM) is a type of popular part molding process for producing large, complex parts in lower volumes. This unique process offers several benefits, such as lower tooling costs, sophisticated aesthetics, and unparalleled design freedom. If you are interested in utilizing RIM as your part production method, continue reading to learn more about the process of reaction injection molding.

Liquid Polymers Are Mixed Together

The process of reaction injection molding begins by mixing two liquid polymers together. The liquid polymers used in the process are known as polyol and isocyanate. These polymers are dispensed from their storage tanks into a multi-stream mixhead by high-pressure industrial pumps and then recirculated back into their storage tanks in a continuous loop.

The Mixture Is Injected Into an Aluminum Tool

Once blended together, the polyol and isocyanate create a low-viscosity mixture. This mixture is then injected into a heated mold. Because the mixture has a low viscosity, it does not require extremely high temperatures or pressures in order to get the material to fit the tool.

As such, the mold is typically made from low-cost aluminum rather than expensive steel which is required for many other molding processes such as injection molding. Thus, opting for RIM over other methods can greatly lower tooling costs and is often highly economically beneficial when creating parts in smaller production volumes.

The Chemical Reaction Takes Place

After the polymer mixture is injected into the aluminum mold, a heat-generating chemical reaction will take place. The reaction will cause the mixture to expand and fill the space of the mold. Upon doing so, the material will quickly harden. Curing times for reaction injection molded parts can range anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, depending on a variety of factors such as the part’s size, wall thickness, and geometry.

The Finished Part Is Removed From the Tool

Once the polymer mixture hardens inside of the mold, it is ready to be removed. RIM generally has very short demolding times in comparison to other processes. Once the part is demolded, the reaction injection molding process can immediately begin again.

 

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Nano Technology

Turning a hot spot into a cold spot: Fano-shaped local-field responses probed by a quantum dot

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Home > Press > Turning a hot spot into a cold spot: Fano-shaped local-field responses probed by a quantum dot

(a) Schematics of the QD-loaded nanoantenna excited by a polarization-controlled light beam. (b) Simulated spectral dispersions and spatial distributions of the local-field responses under x-polarized and y-polarized excitation. (c,d) Simulated spectral dispersions of local-field responses under elliptically polarized excitation. The spectra exhibit Fano lineshapes with tunable Fano asymmetry parameter q and nearly vanishing Fano dips. Local-field distributions show that at the Fano dips the hot spot at the nanogap can be turned into a cold spot. CREDIT
by Juan Xia, Jianwei Tang, Fanglin Bao, Yongcheng Sun, Maodong Fang, Guanjun Cao, Julian Evans, and Sailing He
(a) Schematics of the QD-loaded nanoantenna excited by a polarization-controlled light beam. (b) Simulated spectral dispersions and spatial distributions of the local-field responses under x-polarized and y-polarized excitation. (c,d) Simulated spectral dispersions of local-field responses under elliptically polarized excitation. The spectra exhibit Fano lineshapes with tunable Fano asymmetry parameter q and nearly vanishing Fano dips. Local-field distributions show that at the Fano dips the hot spot at the nanogap can be turned into a cold spot. CREDIT
by Juan Xia, Jianwei Tang, Fanglin Bao, Yongcheng Sun, Maodong Fang, Guanjun Cao, Julian Evans, and Sailing He

Abstract:
Optical nanoantennas can convert propagating light to local fields. The local-field responses can be engineered to exhibit nontrivial features in spatial, spectral and temporal domains. Local-field interferences play a key role in the engineering of the local-field responses. By controlling the local-field interferences, researchers have demonstrated local-field responses with various spatial distributions, spectral dispersions and temporal dynamics. Different degrees of freedom of the excitation light have been used to control the local-field interferences, such as the polarization, the beam shape and beam position, and the incidence direction. Despite the remarkable progress, achieving fully controllable local-field interferences remains a major challenge. A fully controllable local-field interference should be controllable between a constructive interference and a complete destructive interference. This would bring unprecedented benefit for the engineering of the local-field responses.

Turning a hot spot into a cold spot: Fano-shaped local-field responses probed by a quantum dot


Changchun, China | Posted on October 9th, 2020

In a new paper published in Light Science & Application, a team of scientists from China, led by Professor Sailing He from Zhejiang University and Professor Jianwei Tang from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, have experimentally demonstrated that based on a fully controllable local-field interference designed in the nanogap of a nanoantenna, a local-field hot spot can be turned into a cold spot, and the spectral dispersion of the local-field response can exhibit dynamically tunable Fano lineshapes with nearly vanishing Fano dips. By simply controlling the excitation polarization, the Fano asymmetry parameter q can be tuned from negative to positive values, and correspondingly, the Fano dip can be tuned across a broad wavelength range. At the Fano dips, the local-field intensity is strongly suppressed by up to ~50-fold.

The nanoantenna is an asymmetric dimer of colloidal gold nanorods, with a nanogap between the nanorods. The local-field response in the nanogap has the following features: First, local field can be excited by both orthogonal polarizations; Second, the local-field polarization has a negligible dependence on the excitation polarization; Third, the local-field response is resonant for one excitation polarization, but nonresonant for the orthogonal excitation polarization. The first two features make the local-field interferences fully controllable. The third feature further enables Fano-shaped local-field responses.

For experimental study of the local-field responses, it is crucial to probe the local fields at specified spatial and spectral positions. The scientists use a single quantum dot as a tiny sensors to probe the local-field spectrum in the nanogap of the nanoantenna. When the quantum dot is placed in the local field, it is excited by the local field, and its photoluminescence intensity can reveal the local-field response through comparison with its photoluminescence intensity excited directly by the incident light.

Superb fabrication technique is needed to fabricate such a tiny nanoantenna and put the tiny quantum dot sensor into the nanogap. The scientists use the sharp tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) to do this job, pushing nanoparticles together on a glass substrate.

The scientists summarized the relevance of their work:

“Turning a local-field hot spot into a cold spot significantly expands the dynamic range for local-field engineering. The demonstrated low-background and dynamically tuneable Fano-shaped local-field responses can contribute as design elements to the toolbox for spatial, spectral and temporal local-field engineering.”

“More importantly, the low background and high tunability of the Fano lineshapes indicate that local-field interferences can be made fully controllable. Since the local-field interferences play a key role in the spatial, spectral and temporal engineering of the local-field responses, this encouraging conclusion may further inspire diverse designs of local-field responses with novel spatial distributions, spectral dispersions and temporal dynamics, which may find application in nanoscopy, spectroscopy, nano-optical quantum control and nanolithography.”

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Jianwei Tang

Copyright © Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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Nano Technology

Development of cost-efficient electrocatalyst for hydrogen production: Development of a highly efficient and durable electrocatalyst for water electrolysis that will lead to cost-efficient hydrogen production. Trace amounts of titanium doping on low-cost molybdenum phosphide resu

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Home > Press > Development of cost-efficient electrocatalyst for hydrogen production: Development of a highly efficient and durable electrocatalyst for water electrolysis that will lead to cost-efficient hydrogen production. Trace amounts of titanium doping on low-cost molybdenum phosphide resu

Schematic diagram of the step-by-step synthesis process for the preparation of Ti.MoP. CREDIT
Korea Institue of Science and Technology(KIST)
Schematic diagram of the step-by-step synthesis process for the preparation of Ti.MoP. CREDIT
Korea Institue of Science and Technology(KIST)

Abstract:
The key to promoting the hydrogen economy represented by hydrogen vehicles is to produce hydrogen for electricity generation at an affordable price. Hydrogen production methods include capturing by-product hydrogen, reforming fossil fuel, and electrolyzing water. Water electrolysis in particular is an eco-friendly method of producing hydrogen, in which the use of a catalyst is the most important factor in determining the efficiency and price competitiveness. However, water electrolysis devices require a platinum (Pt) catalyst, which exhibits unparalleled performance when it comes to speeding up the hydrogen generation reaction and enhancing long-term durability but is high in cost, making it less competitive compared to other methods price-wise.

Development of cost-efficient electrocatalyst for hydrogen production: Development of a highly efficient and durable electrocatalyst for water electrolysis that will lead to cost-efficient hydrogen production. Trace amounts of titanium doping on low-cost molybdenum phosphide resu


Sejong, Korea | Posted on October 9th, 2020

There are water electrolysis devices that vary in terms of the electrolyte that dissolves in water and allows current to flow. A device that uses a proton exchange membrane (PEM), for instance, exhibits a high rate of hydrogen generation reaction even with the use of a catalyst made of a transition metal instead of an expensive Pt-based catalyst. For this reason, there has been a great deal of research on the technology for commercialization purposes. While research has been focused on achieving high reaction activity, research on increasing the durability of transition metals that easily corrode in an electrochemical environment has been relatively neglected.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) announced that a team headed by Dr. Sung-Jong Yoo from the Center for Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Research developed a catalyst made of a transition metal with long-term stability that could improve hydrogen production efficiency without the use of platinum by overcoming the durability issue of non-platinum catalysts.

The research team injected a small amount of titanium (Ti) into molybdenum phosphide (MoP), a low-cost transition metal, through a spray pyrolysis process. Because it is inexpensive and relatively easy to handle, molybdenum is used as a catalyst for energy conversion and storage devices, but its weakness includes the fact that it corrodes easily as it is vulnerable to oxidation.

In the case of the catalyst developed by the research team at KIST, it was found that the electronic structure of each material became completely restructured during the synthesis process, and it resulted in the same level of hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) activity as the platinum catalyst. The changes in the electronic structure addressed the issue of high corrosiveness, thereby improving durability by 26 times compared to existing transition metal-based catalysts. This is expected to greatly accelerate the commercialization of non-platinum catalysts.

Dr. Yoo of KIST said, “This study is significant in that it improved the stability of a transition metal catalyst-based water electrolysis system, which had been its biggest limitation. I hope that this study, which boosted the hydrogen evolution reaction efficiency of the transition metal catalyst to the level of platinum catalysts and at the same time improved the stability will contribute to earlier commercialization of eco-friendly hydrogen energy production technology.”

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This study was carried out with a grant from the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), as part of the Institutional R&D Program of KIST, the Technical Development Program for Responding to Climate Change, and the Global Frontier Multi-Scale Energy System Research Program. It was published in the latest edition of Nano Energy (IF: 16.602, Top 4.299% in the field of JCR), a leading international journal in the area of energy and nanotechnology.

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Do-Hyun Kim
82-295-86344

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