IT’S a laser, but not as we know it. For a start, you need a microscope to see it.
Gleaming eerily green, it is a single spherical particle just a few tens of nanometres across.
(Image: Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty)
Tiny it might be, but its creators have big plans for it. With further advances, it could help to fulfil a long-held dream: to build a super-fast computer that computes with light.
Dubbed a “spaser”, this minuscule lasing object is the latest by-product of a buzzing field known as nanoplasmonics. Just as microelectronics exploits the behaviour of electrons in metals and semiconductors on micrometre scales, so nanoplasmonics is concerned with the nanoscale comings and goings of entities known as plasmons that lurk on and below the surfaces of metals.