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November 2016

We Gather Here Today to Join Lasers and Anti-Lasers

Bringing opposing forces together in one place is as challenging as you would imagine it to be, but researchers in the field of optical science have done just that.

Scientists using the Molecular Foundry have for the first time created a single device that acts as both a laser and an anti-laser, and they demonstrated these two opposite functions at a frequency within the telecommunications band.

Their findings, lay the groundwork for developing a new type of integrated device with the flexibility to operate as a laser, an amplifier, a modulator, and an absorber or detector.

The concept of anti-lasers, or coherent perfect absorber (CPA), emerged in recent years as something that reverses what a laser does. Instead of strongly amplifying a beam of light, an anti-laser can completely absorb incoming coherent light beams.

While lasers are already ubiquitous in modern life, applications for anti-lasers—first demonstrated five years ago by Yale University researchers—are still being explored. Because anti-lasers can pick up weak coherent signals in the midst of a “noisy” incoherent background, it could be used as an extremely sensitive chemical or biological detector.

A device that can incorporate both capabilities could become a valuable building block for the construction of photonic integrated circuits, the researchers said.

Read the full press release.