Nanowire laser technology discovery holds promise for killing viruses

July 6, 2011
Researchers at the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have made a breakthrough discovery in zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowire waveguide lasers, which feature an ultra-small laser light beam able to penetrate a living cell.

Researchers at the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside (UCR; Riverside, CA) have made a breakthrough discovery in zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowire waveguide lasers, which feature an ultra-small laser light beam able to penetrate a living cell, or excite or change its function from a bad cell to a good cell. The researchers' findings hold promise for biological applications such as killing viruses and purifying drinking water.

Previously, ZnO nanowires lacked the required p-type material to make them useful for real-world light emission applications, but Jianlin Liu, a professor of electrical engineering at UCR, and his team were able to solve the problem by doping the ZnO nanowires with antimony to create the p-type material. The p-type zinc oxide nanowires were then connected with n-type ZnO material to form a p-n junction diode. Powered by a battery, highly directional laser light emits only from the ends of the nanowires.

While Liu and the students in his laboratory have demonstrated the p-type doping of zinc oxide and electrically powered nanowire waveguide lasing in the ultraviolet range, he said more work still needs to be done with the stability and reliability of the p-type material.

The team's findings have been published in the July issue of Nature Nanotechnology. The Army Research Office Young Investigator Program and the National Science Foundation supported the work on the ZnO device, while the Department of Energy supported the work on the p-type ZnO.

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Posted by Lee Mather

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