London: Scientists have, for the first time, developed laser from fluorescent jellyfish proteins that were grown in bacteria. These lasers have the potential to be far more efficient and compact than conventional ones and could open up research avenues in quantum physics and optical computing, researchers said. The breakthrough represents a major advance in so-called polariton lasers, they said.
By repurposing the fluorescent proteins that have revolutionised biomedical imaging, and by allowing scientists to monitor processes inside cells, the team created a polariton laser that operates at room temperature powered by nanosecond pulses – just billionths of a second. “Picosecond pulses of a suitable energy are about a thousandfold more difficult to make than nanosecond pulses, so it really simplifies making these polariton lasers quite significantly,” said Malte Gather, a professor at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and one of the laser’s inventors. Gather and colleagues from the University of Wurzburg and Dresden University of Technology in Germany, genetically engineered E coli bacteria to produce enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP), ‘Live Science’ reported.
The researchers filled optical microcavities with this protein before subjecting them to “optical pumping,” where nanosecond flashes of light are used to bring the system up to the required energy to create laser light. After reaching the threshold for polariton lasing, pumping more energy into the device resulted in conventional lasing. This helps confirm the first emission was due to polariton lasing, Gather said, which is something other approaches using organic materials have been unable to demonstrate so far. The research was published in the journal Science Advances.