“Realistic” lasers can self-organize, adapt their structure and cooperate

“Realistic” lasers can self-organize, adapt their structure and cooperate

lasers

Microparticles grouped around a Janus particle. The dotted line delimits the laser zone, and the pink/yellow lines show the traces of several microparticles. Credit: Imperial College London

By mimicking the characteristics of living systems, self-organizing lasers could lead to new materials for sensing, computing, light sources and displays.

While many man-made materials have advanced properties, they still have a long way to go to combine the versatility and functionality of living materials that can adapt to their situation. For example, in the human body, bones and muscles continually reorganize their structure and composition to better support changes in weight and activity level.

Today, researchers from Imperial College London and University College London presented the first spontaneously self-organizing laser device, which can reconfigure itself when conditions change.

The innovation, reported in Natural Physicswill contribute to the development of smart photonic materials that can better mimic the properties of biological matter, such as reactivity, adaptation, self-healing and collective behavior.

Co-lead author Professor Riccardo Sapienza, from Imperial’s Department of Physics, says “Lasers, which power most of our technology, are engineered from crystalline materials to have precise, static properties. We we wondered if we could create a laser with the ability to mix structure and functionality, reconfigure and cooperate as biological materials do.”

“Our laser system can reconfigure and cooperate, allowing a first step towards emulating the ever-changing relationship between structure and functionality typical of living materials.”

lasers

Credit: Imperial College London

Lasers are devices that amplify light to produce a particular form of light. The self-assembling lasers in the team’s experiment consisted of microparticles dispersed in liquid with high “gain” – the ability to amplify light. Once enough of these microparticles come together, they can harness external energy to “laser” – produce laser light.

An external laser was used to heat a “Janus” particle (a particle coated on one side with a light-absorbing material), around which the microparticles gathered. The laser created by these clusters of microparticles could be turned on and off by changing the intensity of the outer laser, which in turn controlled the size and density of the cluster.

The team also showed how the laser cluster could be transferred into space by heating different Janus particles, demonstrating the adaptability of the system. Janus particles can also collaborate, creating clusters that have properties beyond just adding two clusters together, such as changing their shape and increasing their laser power.

Co-lead author Dr Giorgio Volpe, from UCL’s Department of Chemistry, says that “Lasers today are used routinely in medicine, telecommunications and also in industrial production. The incorporation of lasers with realistic properties will enable the development of robust, autonomous and durable next-generation materials and devices for sensing applications, unconventional computing, new light sources and displays.”

Next, the team will study how to improve the autonomous behavior of the lasers to make them even more realistic. A first application of the technology could be next-generation e-inks for smart displays.


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More information:
Riccardo Sapienza, Self-organized lasers from reconfigurable colloidal assemblies, Natural Physics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41567-022-01656-2. www.nature.com/articles/s41567-022-01656-2

Provided by Imperial College London

Quote: “Realistic” lasers can self-organize, adapt their structure and cooperate (2022, July 13) retrieved July 14, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-life-like-lasers- self-organize-cooperate.html

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