Ultrafast lasers on ultra-tiny chips

A nanophotonic mode-locked laser built on lithium niobate emits a beam of green laser light. Credit: Caltech

Lasers have become relatively commonplace in everyday life, but they have many uses outside of providing light shows at raves and scanning barcodes on groceries. Lasers are also of great importance in telecommunications and computing as well as biology, chemistry, and physics research.

In those latter applications, lasers that can emit extremely short pulses—those on the order of one-trillionth of a second (one picosecond) or shorter—are especially useful. Using lasers operating on such small timescales, researchers can study physical and chemical …
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