"Lifelike" lasers can organize themselves, adapt their structure and cooperate

“Lifelike” lasers can organize themselves, adapt their structure and cooperate

Microparticles clustering around a Janus particle. The dashed line outlines the laser area and the pink/yellow lines show the traces of multiple microparticles. Photo credit: Imperial College London

By mimicking features of living systems, self-assembling lasers could lead to new materials for sensors, computers, light sources, and displays.

While many artificial materials have advanced properties, they still have a long way to go to combine the versatility and functionality of living materials that can adapt to their situation. For example, bones and muscles in the human body are constantly reorganizing their structure and composition to better withstand changing weight and activity levels.

Now researchers from Imperial College London and University College London have demonstrated the first spontaneously self-assembling laser device that can reconfigure itself as conditions change.

The innovation reported in natural physicswill help enable the development of smart photonic materials capable of better mimicking properties of biological matter such as responsiveness, adaptation, self-healing and collective behavior.

Co-lead author Professor Riccardo Sapienza from the Department of Physics at Imperial says: “Lasers, which power most of our technologies, are constructed from crystalline materials to have precise and static properties, and the ability to fuse structure and functionality to reinvent themselves configure and cooperate as biological materials do.”

“Our laser system can reconfigure and cooperate, providing a first step in emulating the ever-evolving relationship between structure and functionality inherent in living materials.”

Photo credit: Imperial College London

Lasers are devices that amplify light to produce a specific form of light. The self-assembling lasers in the team’s experiment consisted of microparticles dispersed in a liquid with high ‘gain’ – the ability to amplify light. Once enough of these microparticles have accumulated, they can use external energy to “lase”—to produce laser light.

A “Janus” particle (a particle coated on one side with light-absorbing material) around which the microparticles gathered was heated with an external laser. The laser produced by these microparticle clusters could be turned on and off by changing the intensity of the external laser, which in turn controlled the size and density of the cluster.

The team also showed how the laser cluster could be transmitted into space by heating different Janus particles, demonstrating the adaptability of the system. Janus particles can also work together and create clusters with properties beyond simply adding two clusters, such as B. changing their shape and increasing their laser power.

Co-lead author Dr. Giorgio Volpe from UCL’s Department of Chemistry says: “Nowadays, lasers are used quite naturally in medicine, telecommunications and also in industrial production. The embodiment of lasers with lifelike properties will enable the development of robust, autonomous and durable next-generation materials and devices for sensor applications, non-conventional computing, novel light sources and displays.”

Next, the team will investigate how to improve the autonomous behavior of the lasers to make them even more lifelike. A first application of the technology could be next-generation electronic inks for smart displays.

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More information:
Riccardo Sapienza, Self-Assembled Lasers from Reconfigurable Colloidal Arrays, natural physics (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41567-022-01656-2. www.nature.com/articles/s41567-022-01656-2

Provided by Imperial College London

Quote: ‘Life-like’ lasers can self-organize, adapt their structure, and Cooperation (2022, July 13) retrieved July 15, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-life-like- lasers-self-organize-cooperate.html

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