Aug 252011

The laser just celebrated its 50 anniversary. Its invention has not only revolutionized science and engineering but also the way we live. While early laser systems had resonator dimensions of centimeters to meters, the continuous miniaturization of solid-state lasers has led to optical microcavities with dimensions down to the diffraction limit of the laser light. If light is confined into such a small mode volume, i.e. a nanocavity is formed, the light-matter interaction becomes increasingly dominated by cavity-quantum electrodynamic (cavity-QED) effects.

Various types of micro- and nanocavity lasers have been developed in the past, including types that use two-dimensional photonic crystals (PCs) as microresonators. A prerequisite for laser emission is the optical gain of the active material. While quantum dots (QDs) are often considered as the active material of the next generation of conventional semiconductor lasers, at present the device performance is limited by size and compositional fluctuations of QDs. With the advent of ultra-small mode volume nanocavities, the development of cavity-QED lasers with few or even a single QD emitter became possible.

Now, in new work, Stefan Strauf from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken (USA) and Frank Jahnke from the University of Bremen (Germany) provide an overview on recent theoretical and experimental progress on nanolasers. The focus is set on the emission properties of devices operating with a few or even an individual semiconductor QD as a gain medium.

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