Mini lasers could bring new age to the Internet

Posted by David Gomez

Do you like lasers and the Internet? Then you’ll be excited about a new laser device created at the University of Central Florida that could improve high-speed computing and the Internet.

According to the UCF Today press release, the laser will make computing faster and more reliable. It could potentially lead to a new age of the Internet.

Professor Dennis Deppe’s miniature laser diode releases more intense light than the ones that are currently used. The light emits at a single wavelength, making it a useful component in compact disc players, laser pointers and optical mice for computers, in addition to high-speed data transmission.

The biggest challenge associated with these devices has been their failure rate. They usually don’t work very well when they face enormous workloads; the stress makes them snap.

The smaller size and removal of non-semiconductor materials means that the new devices could possibly be used in heavy data transmission, which is important in the development of the new Internet age. By integrating laser diodes into the cabling of the future, gigantic amounts of data could be moved across vast distances instantaneously. By utilizing the small lasers in optical clocks, the accuracy of GPS and high-speed wireless data communications also would see an increase.  

“The new laser diodes represent a sharp departure from past commercial devices in how they are made,” Deppe said from his lab inside the College of Optics and Photonics. “The new devices show almost no change in operation under stress conditions that cause commercial devices to rapidly fail.”

“At the speed at which the industry is moving, I wouldn’t be surprised if in four to five years, when you go to Best Buy to buy cables for all your electronics, you’ll be selecting cables with laser diodes embedded in them,” he added.

Deppe and Sabine Freisem, a senior research scientist who has been collaborating with Deppe for eight years, presented their findings in January at the SPIE (formerly The International Society for Optical Engineering) Photonics West conference in San Francisco.

“This is definitely a milestone,” Freisem said. “The implications for the future are huge.”

Unfortunately, there is still one issue that the team is trying to fix. The voltage needed to make the laser diodes function more efficiently must be enhanced.

Deppe said once that problem is fixed the uses for the laser diodes will increase rapidly. They could even be used in lasers in space to remove unwanted hair. Why wax or shave when you use a freaking space laser, right?

“We usually have no idea how often we use this technology in our everyday life already,” Deppe said. “Most of us just don’t think about it. With further development, it will only become more commonplace.”

The thought of upgraded cables with laser diodes in them is quite interesting. They say it will allow for faster data transfer, so it makes you wonder if connecting the high powered cables will be similar to an automatic upgrade of your computer. It also makes you wonder if computers and devices will have to be upgraded before they are able to handle the improved cables the UCF researchers are talking about.

It is an interesting development and it sounds like the nature of computing will take another huge step forward in the near future.

Information provided by University of Central Florida