Home Science Researchers can boost the properties of electronics by shooting them with laser

Researchers can boost the properties of electronics by shooting them with laser

The secret to making stuff better? Shoot it with a laser.

Researchers at Northeastern have taken the first step in developing the next generation of electronics. They are developing a new way to change the electrical and magnetic properties of materials which used to design circuits that power the electronics we use every day.

The team demonstrated a theoretical way to better manipulate the properties of a material by subjecting it to short laser bursts and powerful magnetic fields. Their theoretical models could help others improve real-world electronics or build new quantum circuits.

The characteristics of a material, including whether it is an effective conductor of electricity, depending on the arrangement of the electrons within it. And a steady magnetic field or a current from a battery can change that arrangement.

On the other hand, a laser also can do the same thing, it can be used to change the arrangement of electrons within a material, says physics professor Gregory Fiete. But predicting that change is complicated. Lasers are well-organized waves of light – it produces a constantly fluctuating electromagnetic fields that they create are constantly fluctuating.

Lasers can be used to change the arrangement of electrons within a material, says physics professor Gregory Fiete. But predicting that change is complicated. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
Lasers can be used to change the arrangement of electrons within a material, says physics professor Gregory Fiete. But predicting that change is complicated. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

When the pulse of light moves through a material, it changes the properties of the material in a very dramatic way, and often on very short time scales,” says Gregory Fiete, a physics professor at Northeastern. “The work we’ve done helps us understand what kind of pulse we should use to get certain desired effects.

The scientists experimented with a number of different lasers to bring about different changes in their targets. The models show that various laser-induced changes could make a circuit better at conducting electricity or perhaps increase its sensitivity to a magnetic field, which could be used to improve medical technology and security sensors, according to the research.

Others might make it more efficient at carrying information, which could be used to speed up internet connections.

What we do in my community is try to understand the basic principles that nature operates by,” Fiete says. “Then those principles are picked up by, say, electrical engineers that want to use them to build a sensing device or a communications device. It spreads upward and outward to many different sectors.

The research is published in the journal Physical Review X.

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