Monday, September 17, 2012

Fruit of the laser diode

In July 1962, Robert Hall and some colleagues at the GE R&D Center in Niskayuna, NY, succeeded in doing what researchers in other labs in the US, France, Russia and elsewhere were seeking: to create coherent light emission from GaAs junctions—giving rise to the first laser diode. In September that year, Hall published the results in Physical Review Letters and the rest, as they, is history.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his seminal paper, you can listen to one of the leaders in more recent laser diode advances, David Welch, co-founder of Infinera, present a webcast on the past and future of laser diodes.

In the September issue of Laser Focus World, we celebrate the laser diode with an article by researchers at KMLabs and the Colorado School of Mines on using blue laser diodes to pump a Ti:sapphire laser—illustrating yet one more application for this extremely versatile tool that also enables optical data storage and fiber optic communications.

These two laser-diode-enabled optical applications, along with displays, are the reasons that companies such as Microsoft are now hiring hundreds of experienced optical engineers. This says much about current competitive markets and the powerful enabling roles that photonics play. Microsoft, Amazon, Google--with their readers and tablets, game boxes, fiber optic networks, and optics-based cloud farms—are prime examples of how far we’ve come since that time 50 years ago when a few researchers made a p-n junction semiconductor lase.

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