Spectral super-resolution spectroscopy using a random laser


Super-resolution microscopy refers to a powerful set of imaging techniques that overcome the diffraction limit. Some of these techniques, the importance of which was recognized by the 2014 Nobel Prize for chemistry, are based on the concept of image reconstruction by spatially sparse sampling. Here, we introduce the concept of super-resolution spectroscopy based on sparse sampling in the frequency domain, and show that this can be naturally achieved using a random laser source. In its chaotic regime, the emission spectrum of a random laser features sharp spikes at uncorrelated frequencies that are sparsely distributed over the emission bandwidth. These narrow lasing modes probe stochastically the spectral response of a sample, allowing it to be reconstructed with a resolution exceeding that of the spectrometer. We envision that the proposed technique will inspire a new generation of simple, cheap, high-resolution spectroscopy tools with a reduced footprint.

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Fig. 1: Numerical demonstration of super-resolved spectroscopy.
Fig. 2: Experimental apparatus for super-resolved spectroscopy.
Fig. 3: Low-resolution peak selection.
Fig. 4: Experimental demonstration of super-resolved spectroscopy.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Source data for Figs. 1–4 are provided with the paper.


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We thank S. Caporali for his assistance with sputter deposition of the FP mirrors and L. Mariani for advice on the optical fibre elements. We thank M. De Pas, A. Montori and M. Giuntini for their assistance with the set-up of the electronics and R. Ballerini and A. Hajeb for the realizations of the mechanical elements. This research was funded by Ente Cassa di Risparmio Firenze (grant 2016-0866), Ministero dell’Istruzione dell’Università e della Ricerca Italiano (grant PRIN2017-2017Z55KCW), European Community by Laserlab-Europe (grant H2020 EC-GA-654148) and PATHOS (grant H2020 FET-OPEN-828946).

Author information




A.B., A.T., P.B., L.P., A.K.T., R.T. and D.S.W. conceived the experiment. A.B., A.T. and P.B. conducted the experiment and analysed the results. A.B., A.T., L.P., A.K.T., R.T. and D.S.W. wrote the main manuscript text and A.B. prepared the figures. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Alice Boschetti or Diederik S. Wiersma.

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Competing interests

The experimental apparatus and the analysis method are currently under patent filing (Italian priority application number 10201900014748).

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Fig. 1 and discussion.

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Source Data Fig. 1

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Source Data Fig. 2

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Boschetti, A., Taschin, A., Bartolini, P. et al. Spectral super-resolution spectroscopy using a random laser. Nat. Photonics 14, 177–182 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41566-019-0558-4

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