The objective of this program is to develop a novel family of diode lasers based on single-crystal semiconductor nanomembranes, featuring several potentially transformative attributes. Specifically, these devices, because of their extreme structural flexibility, could be employed in environments that are inaccessible to traditional rigid semiconductors. Their emission properties can be controlled with externally applied mechanical stress, e.g., leading to unprecedented wavelength tunability. Furthermore, the nanomembrane geometry may even allow for laser oscillation in materials that are normally inadequate to this purpose. In particular, this program is focused on the demonstration of nanomembrane lasers based on germanium, where tensile strain can produce a direct fundamental bandgap, thereby enabling optical gain.
Intellectual Merit: The intellectual merit is provided by several potentially disruptive applications of the proposed devices. Nanomembrane lasers in general can create novel functionalities in mechanically flexible optoelectronic systems, such as sensor foils, smart clothing, and artificial skin. Furthermore, the proposed Ge lasers could be directly fabricated on silicon-based microelectronic chips as a means to enable the integration of electronics and photonics at an unprecedented scale.
Broader Impacts: The broader impacts are provided by related educational and curriculum development activities. The research involvement of undergraduates and high-school interns will be emphasized, leveraging existing programs with a strong focus on underrepresented minorities. The more innovative themes of this research will also be incorporated in courses taught by the PIs. Furthermore, the aforementioned applications may ultimately produce important benefits to society, e.g., by creating radically new sensing capabilities.