Researcher investigates new developments in laser and sensor technology

Feb 21, 2008

Scientists hope that research being conducted in Binghamton University’s Department of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy will create lasers that work at wavelengths currently inaccessible.

Funded by a three-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as well as a Cottrell College Science Award of $44,244 from the Research Corporation, Oana Malis, assistant professor of physics, is looking for new materials that would allow laser light to be generated in ranges that are not currently accessible. She is particularly interested in how the optical properties of gallium nitride, a compound semiconductor material, could be used.

“These lasers could be used for sensing such as in detecting environmental conditions in a building,” said Malis. “There are defense applications as well.”

In looking for new materials that would allow her to create lasers in the mid-infrared range, Malis is hoping nitrides are the answer. Their optical and electronic properties are not well understood, in part because they’re difficult to make.

The devices in question are incredibly small, less than a millimeter square. The material is like a sandwich of very thin layers, each about a nanometer or two thick. These hundreds or even thousands of layers give nitrides an interesting electronic structure and allow them to emit or absorb light in particular ranges.

“This is an ambitious project,” Malis said. “It’s the first few steps of the process. Getting to the device level, to an actual laser you can hold in your hand, is a little harder.”

She’s especially excited about this project because it will give undergraduate and graduate students experience in applied physics, including materials, advanced techniques such as electron microscopy and making devices and in theoretical modeling.

“I feel it’s important to involve students in applied research,” she said. “Physics students sometimes believe that physics is only about the cosmological level or broad strokes. In the end, physics is an experimental science. It has to do with reality, with the world around us.”

Malis said she tries to encourage her students to think freely and creatively and see that research is more than just following a certain procedure.

“I’m really interested in making things that work,” she said, “in understanding things that will make people’s lives better and will have a technological impact.”

Source: Binghamton University

Explore further: New insights found in black hole collisions

Related Stories

Future US Navy: Robotic sub-hunters, deepsea pods

3 hours ago

The robotic revolution that transformed warfare in the skies will soon extend to the deep sea, with underwater spy "satellites," drone-launching pods on the ocean floor and unmanned ships hunting submarines.

Europe resumes Galileo satnav deployment (Update)

15 hours ago

Europe resumed deployment of its beleaguered Galileo satnav programme on Friday, launching a pair of satellites seven months after a rocket malfunction sent two multi-million euro orbiters awry.

Italian olive tree disease stumps EU

15 hours ago

EU member states are divided on how to stop the spread of a disease affecting olive trees in Italy that could result in around a million being cut down, officials said Friday.

Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

15 hours ago

Germany-based automation company Festo, focused on technologies for tasks, turns to nature for inspiration, trying to take the cues from how nature performs tasks so efficiently. "Whether it's energy efficiency, ...

Recommended for you

New insights found in black hole collisions

Mar 27, 2015

New research provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe—the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole.

X-rays probe LHC for cause of short circuit

Mar 27, 2015

The LHC has now transitioned from powering tests to the machine checkout phase. This phase involves the full-scale tests of all systems in preparation for beam. Early last Saturday morning, during the ramp-down, ...

Swimming algae offer insights into living fluid dynamics

Mar 27, 2015

None of us would be alive if sperm cells didn't know how to swim, or if the cilia in our lungs couldn't prevent fluid buildup. But we know very little about the dynamics of so-called "living fluids," those ...

Fluctuation X-ray scattering

Mar 26, 2015

In biology, materials science and the energy sciences, structural information provides important insights into the understanding of matter. The link between a structure and its properties can suggest new ...

Hydrodynamics approaches to granular matter

Mar 26, 2015

Sand, rocks, grains, salt or sugar are what physicists call granular media. A better understanding of granular media is important - particularly when mixed with water and air, as it forms the foundations of houses and off-shore ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.