As optical computing becomes a more realistic prospect, lasers will be required to connect components inside our devices. Now, a new silicon-based laser could make it far easier for researchers to replace wires with beams of light.

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Researchers have been trying to build a working laser using silicon for years now. That’s because so many components are already built on silicon: Being able to create a laser on the same substrate would make future manufacturing processes far easier. But it’s proven difficult to build the laser technology directly on to the semiconductor wafers.

Now, a team led by Cardiff University has created the world’s first silicon-based laser. The new device is the first ever laser to be grown directly on a silicon substrate, producing light that’s 1,300 nanometers in wavelength and operating for up to 100,000 hours. It can produce temperatures of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The research is published in Nature Photonics.

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Now, researchers will be able to play around with using lasers that are built on silicon wafers. The team suggests its first experiments will investigate how they can direct the laser’s light around using wave guides, to try and understand how they can combine the benefits of optical and electrical circuits on a single chip.

[Nature Photonics via PhysOrg]