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Advances in small lasers


Small lasers have dimensions or modes sizes close to or smaller than the wavelength of emitted light. In recent years there has been significant progress towards reducing the size and improving the characteristics of these devices. This work has been led primarily by the innovative use of new materials and cavity designs. This Review summarizes some of the latest developments, particularly in metallic and plasmonic lasers, improvements in small dielectric lasers, and the emerging area of small bio-compatible or bio-derived lasers. We examine the different approaches employed to reduce size and how they result in significant differences in the final device, particularly between metal- and dielectric-cavity lasers. We also present potential applications for the various forms of small lasers, and indicate where further developments are required.

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Figure 1: Development timeline of small lasers, from first demonstration to electrical, continuous wave and room-temperature operation, and in some cases to commercial applications.
Figure 2: Using a simple Fabry–Pérot resonator laser to illustrate the fundamental challenges involved in laser miniaturization.
Figure 3: Overview of optical gain materials considered for use in small lasers, along with the key properties of various small lasers.
Figure 4: Metal-based lasers.
Figure 5: Potential future applications of small lasers.


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M.T.H was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship research grant for this work. M.C.G. is grateful to the Scottish Funding Council (via SUPA) for financial support.

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All authors contributed equally to this work.

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Correspondence to Martin T. Hill or Malte C. Gather.

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Hill, M., Gather, M. Advances in small lasers. Nature Photon 8, 908–918 (2014).

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