Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Nano-Sized Light Source

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Nano-Sized Light Source

Article excerpt

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) have invented a bio-friendly nano-sized light source capable of emitting coherent light across the visible spectrum.

"This nanowire light source is like having a tiny flashlight that we can potentially scan across a living cell, visualizing the cell while mechanically interacting with it," explains coauthor Jan Liphardt, a biophysicist who holds a joint appointment with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley's physics department. The findings appear in the journal Nature.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the technique used by researchers, nanowires of potassium niobate were synthesized in a special hot water solution and separated using ultrasound. The wires were highly uniform in size, several microns long, but only about 50 nm in diameter. A beam from an infrared laser was used to create an optical trap that allowed individual nanowires to be touched and manipulated. Because of potassium niobate's unique optical properties, this same beam of infrared laser light also served as an optical pump, causing the nanowires to emit visible light of color that could be selected. …

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