Silicon microchips could perform faster and better if light rather than electrons was used to ferry signals between transistors. Packing silicon into tiny nuggets known as quantum dots (SN: 6/17/00, p. 392) may make such light-accelerated silicon circuitry possible, new research shows.
Despite being the mainstay material of electronics, silicon generally is ill-suited for light-producing devices such as lasers and light-emitting diodes. A research team led by Lorenzo Pavesi of the University of Trento in Povo and Italy's National Institute for the Physics of Matter nevertheless reports amplifying a laser beam's intensity by passing it through a layer of silicon quantum dots. The researchers first excited the dots, each just 3 nanometers in diameter, with another laser beam.
Pavesi and his colleagues report their work in the Nov. 23 Nature. "Before this paper, people said that building a laser with silicon is impossible. Now . . . people say that it's worth a tr