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Engineers demonstrate first room-temperature semiconductor source of coherent Terahertz radiation
Date:5/19/2008

Cambridge, Mass. -- May 19, 2008 -- Engineers and applied physicists from Harvard University have demonstrated the first room-temperature electrically-pumped semiconductor source of coherent Terahertz (THz) radiation, also known as T-rays. The breakthrough in laser technology, based upon commercially available nanotechnology, has the potential to become a standard Terahertz source to support applications ranging from security screening to chemical sensing.

Spearheaded by research associate Mikhail Belkin and Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering, both of Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the findings will be published in the May 19 issue of Applied Physics Letters. The researchers have also filed for U.S. patents covering the novel device.

Using lasers in the Terahertz spectral range, which covers wavelengths from 30 to 300å, has long presented a major hurdle to engineers. In particular, making electrically pumped room-temperature and thermoelectrically-cooled Terahertz semiconductor lasers has been a major challenge. These devices require cryogenic cooling, greatly limiting their use in everyday applications.

"By contrast, our device emits T-rays with several hundreds of nanowatts of power at room temperature and microwatts of power at temperatures easily achievable with commercially available thermoelectric coolers," says Belkin. "Further, there is the potential of increasing the terahertz output power to milliwatt levels by optimizing the semiconductor nanostructure of the active region and by improving the extraction efficiency of the terahertz radiation."

To achieve the breakthrough and overcome the temperature limitations of current laser designs, the researchers engineered a room temperature mid-infrared Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) that emits light at two frequencies simultaneously. The
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Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

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