A group of researchers under the supervision of a professor at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering has found that semiconductor nanowire laser technology can be used in a wide variety of applications ranging from destroying viruses to boosting DVD storage capacity.
Ultraviolet semiconductor diode lasers are utilized extensively in information storage, biology, and data processing. However, these lasers have been used in limited number of applications owing to cost, size, and efficiency. Currently, ultraviolet lasers are produced from gallium nitride. However, a professor of electrical engineering, Jianlin Liu, and his coworkers have created an innovation in zinc oxide nanowire waveguide lasers with low cost, small size, short wavelength, and high power.
Light emission applications did not involve the use of zinc oxide nanowires due to the absence of p-type material required by all semiconductors. Liu resolved that issue by introducing impurities with a metalloid component like antimony into pure zinc oxide nanowires to produce the p-type material.
The resulting p-type zinc oxide nanowires were attached to n-type zinc oxide to create a device known as a p-n junction diode, which is driven using a battery to emit directional laser light from the edges of the nanowires. The zinc oxide nanowire lasers could be used to store information. It can be used for reading and processing denser information on storage media including DVDs as the ultraviolet lasers feature shorter wavelength when compared to other lights. For instance, a DVD that has a storage capacity of two hours music could now use the new type of laser to have a higher storage capacity of four to six hours of music.
It is also useful for medical therapeutics and biology. The compact light source from a nanowire laser can enter a live cell, or stimulate or modify a bad cell into a good cell. The laser light can also purify drinking water.
The ultraviolet light could deliver rapid information processing and transmission. Tiny ultraviolet semiconductor diode lasers may aid in the formation of ultraviolet wireless communication technology, which is essentially more effective than advanced infrared communication technologies utilized in several electronic information devices.
Liu with his team have shown p-type doping of zinc oxide and created nanowire waveguide lasers electrically in the ultraviolet range. However, Liu stated they need to improve the reliability and stability of the p-type material.