We are slowly but surely approaching the limits of electronics. That is why scientists and businesses are focusing on photonics, a keystone technology that will facilitate a wide range of other innovations. This technology involves harnessing photons (light particles) to transport and process data.
To let photonic chips function as efficiently as possible, you have to be able to check the light signals properly, including lasers that emit light particles that virtually all share the same frequency, i.e. have the same colour. Researchers at the University of Twente succeeded in developing a tiny laser on a chip with a maximum bandwidth (the maximum frequency uncertainty) of 290 Hertz. It is by far the most accurate laser ever created on a chip. Boller: “Our signal is more than ten times as coherent - or clean - as the world’s most narrowband laser on a chip.”
The laser in question is tunable, which means users are able to change the colour of the laser themselves, to a certain extent. It is a hybrid laser, which means that it essentially consists of two separate chips linked with an optical connection.
The record laser brings many applications within reach, such as controlling directional antennas on cell towers for 5G mobile internet, quicker data transfer speeds through fibre-optic networks, more accurate GPS systems and sensors that can monitor the structural soundness of buildings and bridges.
Twente is one of the world’s leading regions in the field of photonics, a billion-euro industry in the making due to its nature as a potential keystone technology for a wide range of applications. The region is the cradle of TriPleX technology, one of the most important standards for photonic chips. The key to Twente’s excellent position is the natural cross-fertilisation between all parties involved. The entire innovation chain has a presence in the region and all parties are locked in close cooperation: ranging from fundamental scientific research into different core domains, to world-leading companies in the development, production, and integration of components.
The research was carried out by Youwen Fan and Klaus Boller of the department of Laser Physics and Nonlinear Optics at the UT research institute MESA+, Applied Nanophotonics, in collaboration with Ruud Oldenbeuving, Chris Roeloffzen, Marcel Hoekman, Dimitri Geskus and René Heideman of LioniXInternational.
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