To most of us dust is just something we clean off our furniture, but to scientists dust can cause big problems in the lab. Computer chips are put together and tested in what are called clean rooms. These environments use filters to limit the amount of particles of dust in the air. UC San Diego’s Janelle Shane explains how just one of these particles can ruin microscopic components.
The research highlighted in this video has been supported in part by the National Science Foundation.
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FEATURING: Janelle Shane, alum to the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego
From an electrical engineering researcher at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego:
“It resembles a mushroom cloud, but in fact, it’s one of our microscopic nanolasers, imaged under an electron microscope. These lasers are among the smallest in the world, so small you could fit a billion of them on an iPhone home button, small enough to one day fit easily on a computer chip to help computers send data using light.
Here, you see the laser partway through our fabrication process, a process that can take a week or more. In the previous step, the laser was coated with a puffy layer of glassy material, used to keep the laser light from leaking away and to keep the laser’s two electrical contacts separated. At the center beneath this smooth white layer lies the actual laser core. When my labmate Qing gets to this step, it comes with a sense of relief, since the glassy layer helps strengthen the laser, keeping it from snapping in half. When this laser’s eventually finished, it will be encapsulated in a thin shell of metal, and emit light through its base.”
The hope is that this technology will one day produce much faster computer chips.