A high-performance topological bulk laser based on band-inversion-induced reflection


Topological insulators are materials that behave as insulators in the bulk and as conductors at the edge or surface due to the particular configuration of their bulk band dispersion. However, up to date possible practical applications of this band topology on materials’ bulk properties have remained abstract. Here, we propose and experimentally demonstrate a topological bulk laser. We pattern semiconductor nanodisk arrays to form a photonic crystal cavity showing topological band inversion between its interior and cladding area. In-plane light waves are reflected at topological edges forming an effective cavity feedback for lasing. This band-inversion-induced reflection mechanism induces single-mode lasing with directional vertical emission. Our topological bulk laser works at room temperature and reaches the practical requirements in terms of cavity size, threshold, linewidth, side-mode suppression ratio and directionality for most practical applications according to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and other industry standards. We believe this bulk topological effect will have applications in near-field spectroscopy, solid-state lighting, free-space optical sensing and communication.

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Fig. 1: Principle of the construction of the topological bulk laser.
Fig. 2: Topological bulk laser cavity.
Fig. 3: Lasing characteristics of topological bulk laser.
Fig. 4: Directional emission of the topological bulk laser.

Data availability

The data that support the plots in this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 11774014, 11574012, 91950115, 61521004), Beijing Natural Science Foundation (grant no. Z180011) and the National Key R&D Program of China (grant no. 2018YFA0704401). X.H. is supported by the CREST Program, Japan Science and Technology Agency (grant no. JPMJCR18T4) and Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research, Japan Society of Promotion of Science (grant no.17H02913).

Author information

R.-M.M. conceived and supervised the project. H.-Z.C. and Z.-K.S. designed the device. Z.-K.S. fabricated the devices. S.W, X.-R.M., Z.-Q.Y., Z.-K.S. and R.-M.M. performed optical characterization. H.-Z.C. and S.-L.W. carried out simulations. H.-Z.C., X.-X.W., X.H. and R.-M.M. carried out theoretical analyses. R.-M.M., Z.-K.S., H.-Z.C. and X.H. wrote the manuscript. All authors fully contributed to the project.

Correspondence to Ren-Min Ma.

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Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Alexander Khanikaev and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Parts 1–9, Figs.1–13 and Table 1.

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Shao, Z., Chen, H., Wang, S. et al. A high-performance topological bulk laser based on band-inversion-induced reflection. Nat. Nanotechnol. 15, 67–72 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-019-0584-x

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