Scientists at the Norfolk State University may laid claim to a "world's smallest laser" title just a few short weeks ago with the aid of some newfangled "spasers," but it looks like the folks at UC Berkeley at hot on their heels with some tiny lasers of their own, and they've now announced what they claim to be the worlds smallest semiconductor laser. Unlike Norfolk State's solution, the Berkeley researchers apparently relied primarily on standard semiconductor materials and fabrication technologies commonly used today, but devised a new means to squeeze the visible light into a 5 nanometer gap (about the size of a single protein molecule), while also using some newly-engineered "hybrid surface plasmons" to keep the light from dissipating as it moves along. That, the researchers say, represents nothing short of a "new milestone in laser physics," and could pave the way for everything from new nanolasers that can probe, manipulate and characterize DNA molecules to new breakthroughs in computing that could see light replacing electronic circuitry "with a corresponding leap in speed and processing power."

[Via DailyTech]

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