For the first time scientists have developed laser from fluorescent jellyfish proteins that were grown in bacteria. These lasers have the potential to be far more efficient and compact than conventional ones and could open up research avenues in quantum physics and optical computing, researchers said. The breakthrough represents a major advance in so-called polariton lasers.
Gather turned to an unusual solution :
Barrel-shaped fluorescent proteins engineered from jellyfish DNA. Each protein’s cylindrical shell encloses a component that emits light, and keeps those molecules from getting too cozy and interfering with one another.
- To build their laser, Gather and his colleagues sandwiched a thin film of the fluorescent protein between two mirrors. Activating the light-emitting molecules with a pulse of blue light from an external laser successfully coaxed laser light from the proteins.
- The researchers filled optical microcavities with this protein before subjecting them to “optical pumping,” where nanosecond flashes of light are used to bring the system up to the required energy to create laser light.
- Gather and colleagues from the University of Wurzburg and Dresden University of Technology in Germany, genetically engineered E coli bacteria to produce enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP).
To make the new laser
The researchers grew enhanced green fluorescent protein from jellyfish in E. coli cells because prior research suggested they were capable of producing polaritons (quasi particles that are able to carry excitations with them).
- The protein was fashioned into a very thin (500 nanometer) film that was set between two mirrors. To create a laser beam, all the researchers had to do was shine a blue light into the device, which excited the proteins to the point of producing polaritons – soon thereafter, they spontaneously synchronized, producing a laser beam that was emitted out of the device.
- Fluorescent proteins can already be embedded inside living tissue for this reason, but they emit such a broad range of wavelengths that they can differentiate fewer than 10 cell types.
- Because a laser emits such a narrow spectrum of light, fluorescent protein lasers could be used to mark thousands of different cells and a fluorescent protein laser would be safer than embedding lasers with conventional semiconductors, which can be poisonous.
- It is noted that there are a few more challenges to overcome before the jellyfish-based laser is ready for everyday use, says Stéphane Kéna-Cohenat École Polytechnique de Montréal in Canada and still, the idea that a polariton laser made out of material derived from nature can work just as well as one with a traditional, highly engineered semiconductor crystal is interesting and surprising phenomenon.
The researchers filled optical micro cavities with this protein before subjecting them to “optical pumping,” where nanosecond flashes of light are used to bring the system up to the required energy to create laser light.