3-Micron Room-Temperature Semiconductor Laser Developed

9/22/1999 - 51-99r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Sarnoff Corporation, and Sensors Unlimited have demonstrated the first room-temperature operation of an interband III-V laser diode emitting at a wavelength beyond three microns. The research team reports that this new development brings the GaSb-based technology closer to achieving truly practical and portable Mid-IR laser systems that are needed for many military and commercial applications. This work was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The research team was led by Dr. Jerry Meyer of NRL's Optical Physics Branch in the Optical Sciences Division, Dr. Ramon Martinelli of the Sarnoff Corporation, and Dr. Alan Sugg of Sensors Unlimited, Inc.

Dr. Meyer reports, "A truly practical Mid-IR laser will need to operate continuously (cw) at room temperature if it is to find widespread commercial acceptance. To date at room temperature, our lasers only emit short pulses which are useful for many research applications. This achievement is an important milestone that the optoelectronics community has been working towards for over a decade.

Earlier researchers using non-cascaded III-V semiconductor lasers achieved pulsed operation only up to -18° C. During the last three years, III-V quantum cascade lasers using intersubband transitions and lead-salt lasers with IV-VI compounds achieved pulsed room-temperature operation in this wavelength range. While no Mid-IR semiconductor has lased continuously at non-cryogenic temperatures to date, the new W quantum well laser reached -78° C, which is higher than any earlier III-V laser beyond 3 microns."

The research team reports that the structure enabling them to reach room temperature operation was composed of an NRL-developed antimonide type-II "W" quantum well active region combined with a Sarnoff developed broadened-waveguide confinement region. The lasing wavelength at 27° C was 3.3 microns, the spectral width was 12 nanometers, and the peak output power was greater than 2 miliwatts.

Trace amounts (parts per billion to parts per million) of chemicals may be detected with 100 to100,000 times greater sensitivity in the Mid-IR than at shorter wavelengths. Once the technology is commercially available, inexpensive room-temperature laser diodes will find widespread use in such applications as pollution monitoring, leak detection, medical diagnostics, factory process control, base-cleanup, and the detection of chemical weapons sites.

Get NRL News: RSS

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory provides the advanced scientific capabilities required to bolster our country's position of global naval leadership. The Laboratory, with a total complement of approximately 2,500 personnel, is located in southwest Washington, D.C., with other major sites at the Stennis Space Center, Miss., and Monterey, Calif. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to advance research further than you can imagine. For more information, visit the NRL website or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Comment policy: We hope to receive submissions from all viewpoints, but we ask that all participants agree to the Department of Defense Social Media User Agreement. All comments are reviewed before being posted.