Gold comes in various forms, from huge blocks to strands just a fraction of the size of a human hair. Just recently, researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering attached to gold nanoparticles to a microlaser. In doing so they’ve created a frequency comb that is much smaller and uses around 1000 times less power than currently comb technology out there.

Frequency combs work by taking a single color and creating a rainbow of colors from it.  These devices are often used in GPS, to detect toxic chemicals, and to improve cybersecurity. But, they’re quite big. To make a smaller system, the power wavelength generation would need to be significantly reduced.

The study demonstrated frequency combs only need milliwatts of input power as they attach gold nanorods to a single microlaser which generates many additional wavelengths.  Researchers further improved on this process by adding a polymer coating to the nanoparticles. “These results exemplify what can happen if researchers from different fields work together on a basic science problem that has applied research impact,” said Armani, the Ray Irani Chair in Engineering and Materials Science. “By combining expertise in optics and in nanomaterials, we make exceptionally fast progress that challenged and disproved the conventional thought in the field that gold nanoparticles would be detrimental to the laser.”

Vinh Diep, co-author of the study and a Materials Science PhD student, sees the project as using nanomaterial innovations in which to solve integrated optics problems.  He confirmed that by using gold nanorod coating the researchers saw a comb that could span over a wavelength range of 300 nanometers.

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