A laser revolution out of the blue

August 18, 1995

Blue lasers, the holy grail of laser technology, could revolutionise information technology and compact disc technology, according to physicists and industrial re-searchers meeting at Heriot-Watt University this week.

The research group at Heriot-Watt was the first in Europe to develop blue laser technology.

Gerald Buller, senior lecturer in the physics department at the university says that since the first demonstration of the technology in the United States in 1991, research around the world has focussed on optimising the device. In future blue-laser research will concentrate on boosting the power of the lasers, enabling them to operate at higher temperatures and at shorter wavelengths.

If blue lasers could be mass-produced with the required reliability and robustness, they could not only revolutionise information technology and compact-disc technology but also replace light bulbs - providing lights with a longer lifetime.

Researchers from top electronic firms such as Sony, Philips, Sharp and NEC at the Heriot-Watt conference underlined the potential rewards of blue-laser technology for the electronics industry.

Blue lasers operate on a much shorter wavelength than the more common red or infra-red lasers. Red lasers are widely applied for reading compact discs and have a wavelength of 780 nanometers.

Blue-laser light, by contrast, has a wavelength of less than 500 nm.

Dr Buller says that if devices could be built to operate reliably at the low end, the halving of the wavelength compared to red lasers would allow the density of information packed on mediums such as compact discs to be quadrupled.

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