Paving the way for new light-powered devices

By combining cutting-edge concepts from theoretical physics, researchers from Penn Engineering developed ‘sypersymmetric microlaser arrays’ that are both stable and have high power density.

The field of photonics involves the study of new ways to generate and harness light, akin to how many of the devices used in everyday life run on electric current. While photonic devices have the potential to transform the current technology paradigm through increased speed, efficiency, and information density, their broad application is limited by the size, strength, and stability of the light sources, often lasers, in these devices.

scientific rendering of a light-powered device.
Ring microlasers are eyed as potential light sources for photonic applications, but they first must be made more powerful. Combining multiple microlasers into an array solves only half of the problem, as this adds noisy “modes” to the resulting laser light. Penn Engineers have achieved single-mode lasing from such an array. By calculating the necessary properties for “superpartners” placed around the primary array, they can cancel out the unwanted extra modes. (Image: Penn Engineering Today)

Now, a team of researchers from Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have combined concepts from the cutting edge of theoretical physics to design and build atomically-thin arrays of closely packed arrays of microlasers that are both stable and have a higher degree of power density than their single-laser counterparts. Their latest findings, demonstrating the capabilities of this “supersymmetric microlaser array,” was recently published in Science.

This research was led by Liang Feng, associate professor in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical and Systems Engineering, along with lab members Xingdu Qiao, Bikashkali Midya, Zihe Gao, Zhifeng Zhang, Haoqi Zhao, Tianwei Wu and Jieun Yim. Ritesh Agarwal, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and professor Natalia M. Litchinitser from Duke University also contributed to this study.

Combining multiple ring-shaped microlasers into a grid-like array helps increase their power density but also adds noisy “modes” to the laser light. Now, using insights from supersymmetry, the researchers were able to cancel out the unwanted extra modes, a key step in creating laser sources that are more efficient and controllable.

Read more at Penn Engineering.