Making a Big Impact with Tiny Lasers

by Allison Kleber

ECE Professor Luca Dal Negro and his Utah University collaborator, Hari Sundar, have received a $450K grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an exciting new line of research. Utilizing a novel form of mathematics–fractional calculus—they are embarking on a 36-month study of equally novel types of miniaturized laser structures, capable of operating efficiently over multiple frequency bands and releasing so-called “photons on demand.” These structures were initially proposed through a prior publication (Y. Chen, A. Fiorentino, and L. Dal Negro, “A Fractional Diffusion Random Laser.” Scientific Reports 9, 8686 [2019]).

 The project, titled “Collaborative Research: Engineering fractional photon transport for random laser devices,” is expected to lead to broad practical applications in the future, as part of the next generation of essential nanophotonics devices such as optical sensors for environmental control and medical diagnostics. In addition, the grant will help support student research, as well as outreach to attract more students to the fields of computational science and optical engineering, with a particular focus on underrepresented minorities.

 Professor Luca Dal Negro earned his PhD a the University of Trento, Italy, in 2003. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the recipient of several early career awards. He has broad research interests in nanophotonics, optics, and laser physics.