Biocompatible nanolaser has ability to function inside living tissues

Sept. 26, 2019
The nanolaser, mainly made of biocompatible glass, shows promise for imaging in living tissues.

A team of researchers at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and Columbia University (New York, NY) has developed a nanolaser that can function inside of living tissues without harming them. Measuring 50150 nm thick, the laser can fit and function inside living tissues, with the potential to sense disease biomarkers or perhaps treat deep-brain neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.

The nanolaser, mainly made of biocompatible glass, shows promise for imaging in living tissues. What's more, the laser can also be excited with longer wavelengths of light and emit at shorter wavelengths.

"Longer wavelengths of light are needed for bioimaging because they can penetrate farther into tissues than visible wavelength photons," says Teri Odom, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, who co-led the research along with P. James Schuck, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University's School of Engineering. "But shorter wavelengths of light are often desirable at those same deep areas. We have designed an optically clean system that can effectively deliver visible laser light at penetration depths accessible to longer wavelengths."

Current nanolasers tend to be much less efficient than their macroscopic counterpartsand typically need shorter wavelengths, such as ultraviolet (UV) light, to power them. "This is bad because the unconventional environments in which people want to use small lasers are highly susceptible to damage from UV light and the excess heat generated by inefficient operation," says Schuck.

The researchers were able to achieve a nanolaser platform that solves these issues by using photon upconversion, in which low-energy photons are absorbed and converted into one photon with higher energy. In this project, the team started with low-energy, bio-friendly infrared photons and upconverted them to visible laser beams. The resulting laser can function under low powers and is vertically much smaller than the wavelength of light.

"Our nanolaser is transparent, but can generate visible photons when optically pumped with light our eyes cannot see," says Odom. "The continuous-wave, low-power characteristics will open numerous new applications, especially in biological imaging."

The nanolaser also can operate in extremely confined spaces, including quantum circuits and microprocessors for ultrafast and low-power electronics.

Full details of the work appear in the journal Nature Materials

Got biophotonics-related news to share with us? Contact Lee Dubay, Associate Editor, BioOptics World

Get even more news like this delivered right to your inbox

About the Author

BioOptics World Editors

We edited the content of this article, which was contributed by outside sources, to fit our style and substance requirements. (Editor’s Note: BioOptics World has folded as a brand and is now part of Laser Focus World, effective in 2022.)

Sponsored Recommendations

Flexible, Thixotropic, One Component Dual Cure Epoxy

Dec. 1, 2023
Master Bond UV23FLDC-80TK is a moderate viscosity, cationic type system that offers both UV light and heat curing mechanisms. It cures readily within 20-30 seconds when exposed...

MRF Polishing

Dec. 1, 2023
Welcome to Avantier, your esteemed partner in optical solutions for over five decades. With a legacy of expert knowledge, we invite you to delve into the realm of precision optics...

Fluorescence Microscopy Part 1: Illuminating Samples for High-Resolution Imaging

Dec. 1, 2023
Illuminating Samples Fluorescence microscopy is a powerful imaging technique widely used in various fields, especially in biomedical research, to visualize and study fluorescently...

Photonics Business Moves: December 1, 2023

Dec. 1, 2023
Here are the top four photonics business moves that made headlines during the week ending December 1, 2023.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!