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Nature. 2001 Dec 13;414(6865):708-9.

Light emission: A temperature-tunable random laser.

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  • 1European Laboratory for Nonlinear Spectroscopy and Istituto Nazionale per la Fisica della Materia, Largo E. Fermi 2, 50125 Florence, Italy.


Random lasers have fascinating emission properties that lie somewhere between those of a conventional laser and a common light-bulb. We have created a random laser that can be brought above and below its threshold for laser emission by small changes in its temperature, thereby creating a light source with a temperature-tunable colour spectrum. As a single random laser can be made as small as a grain of tens of micrometres in diameter, we expect our device to find application in photonics, temperature-sensitive displays and screens, and in remote temperature sensing. Lasers are now commonplace - for example, they are used in industry and in hospitals, in bar-code scanners and compact-disc players. Conventional lasers are based on an optically active material and some sort of laser cavity that traps light for long enough for laser action to occur. A new type of laser source, known as a random laser, has been discovered that does not require a regular cavity but instead depends on a diffusive material such as a fine powder. In a random laser, light waves are trapped by multiple light scattering (that is, light diffusion), which takes over the role of the cavity in a regular laser (Fig. 1). The emission of a random-laser source has a well defined colour spectrum and can be pulsed, just like a regular laser, although its emission is in several directions because of the intrinsic randomness of the system.

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