The green laser pointers in use today to illustrate presentations are based on this science, but producing such a beautiful emerald beam is no easy feat. The green light begins as an infrared ray that must be first processed through a crystal, various lenses and other optical elements before it can illuminate that PowerPoint on the screen before you.
It was later discovered that applying an electrical field to some crystals produced a similar, though weaker, beam of light. This second discovery, known as EFISH – for electric-field-induced second harmonic light generation – has amounted mostly to an interesting bit of scientific knowledge and little more. EFISH devices are big, demanding high-powered lasers, large crystals and thousands of volts of electricity to produce the effect. As a result, they are impractical for all but a few applications.
In a paper published today in Science, engineers from Stanford have demonstrated a new device that shrinks EFISH devices by orders of magnitude to the nanoscale. The result is an ultra-compact light source with both optical and electrical functions. Research implications for the device range from a better understanding of fundamental science to improved data communications."