Light from lasers travelling through fibre-optic cables conveys trillions of bits of information each second. U of T researchers recently caught the first-ever glimpse inside a communication laser while it was operating, a breakthrough that could lead to more powerful communication networks.
Investigator and U of T engineering professor Ted Sargent and his team focused on the “beating heart” portion of the laser (called the active region), where electronic energy is converted into light. They found electrons leaking from this active region, heating up the laser and degrading its effectiveness in producing light.
Sargent says the findings could influence laser design, change the diagnosis of faulty lasers and potentially reduce manufacturing costs. Designers currently use a variety of computer simulations to model how lasers work; the U of T research will allow them to determine which simulations are the most accurate. This could have larger implications for the creation of optical circuits for fibre-optic communication. Optical circuits that look like today’s electronic computer chips could contain lasers, detectors and waveguides to make an integrated opto-electronic chip.