Zia Laser's Not-so-Dotty Idea

At first glance, Zia Laser Inc. looks like the ideal setting for a story about dotty scientists. It’s an early-stage startup run by four academics from the University of New Mexico’s Center for High Technology Materials, in Albuquerque. And guess what they’re working on?

Quantum dots.

Quantum dots are tiny particles of semiconductor, typically 100 atoms across, embedded in a host material, another semiconductor. When an electric current is applied to this arrangement, light is thrown out. The wavelength of this light depends on the precise size of the particles.

Zia Laser is aiming to use quantum dots to make tunable lasers. They promise to have a particularly wide tuning range and to be considerably cheaper than alternative technology lasers (see Zia Laser Inc. for details).

The low cost aspect of Zia's developments stems from the fact that quantum dots don’t need a lot of electric power to perform. That means that the chips don’t heat up very much, so expensive packaging is unnecessary.

Zia was only founded last May but expects to have product samples ready in the next few months, according to Petros Varangis, one of the founders. Those first samples will be a tunable laser that covers the wavelength range 1.4 to 1.65 microns -- a tuning range three times wider than commercial tunable lasers on offer today.

So far, Zia has used equipment at the University of New Mexico to develop its lasers and hasn’t bothered raising any outside finance. Venture capital money would speed up work, Varangis admits -- but dealing with all the phone calls from VCs that this item may generate might change his mind about that.

-- Pauline Rigby, special to Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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