In the fast-paced world of technology, where advancements are made at an exponential rate, a team of Chinese researchers has achieved a remarkable breakthrough. Led by Prof. Wang Enge from the School of Physics at Peking University, this team has developed a novel theory that led to the invention of a new type of ultrathin optical crystal. This crystal, known as Twist Boron Nitride (TBN), boasts a micron-level thickness, making it the thinnest optical crystal ever known to mankind. In addition to its slenderness, TBN also exhibits energy efficiency that surpasses traditional crystals of the same thickness by a staggering 100 to 10,000 times.
For over six decades, laser technology has played a pivotal role in the development of the information society. Optical crystals, as fundamental components of laser devices, have enabled crucial functionalities such as frequency conversion, parametric amplification, and signal modulation. However, the rapid evolution of the technology landscape calls for enhanced optical crystals that can fulfill the requirements of miniaturization, high integration, and functionalization.
Traditionally, the research and development of optical crystals have largely relied on two phase-matching theories proposed by American scientists. Yet, these theories and the associated material systems have imposed limitations on the development of laser devices. Recognizing the need for breakthroughs, Prof. Wang Enge and Prof. Liu Kaihui, director of the Institute of Condensed Matter and Material Physics at Peking University, embarked on a mission to revolutionize optical crystal theory and materials.
The groundbreaking twist-phase-matching theory introduced by the Chinese researchers is the third of its kind, based on a light-element material system. Prof. Liu Kaihui explained the theory using an analogy, stating that “the laser generated by optical crystals can be viewed as a marching column of individuals. The twist mechanism can make everyone’s direction and pace highly coordinated, greatly improving the energy conversion efficiency of the laser.” This innovative approach paves the way for a brand-new design model and material system, spanning from basic optics theory to material science and technology.
One of the key features of the TBN crystal is its impressive thinness, ranging from 1 to 10 microns. This contrasts significantly with the previously known optical crystals, which typically measure in millimeters or even centimeters. Such ultra-thin size opens up a realm of possibilities for the integration potential of the TBN crystal, enabling it to achieve new application breakthroughs in fields such as quantum light sources, photonic chips, artificial intelligence, and beyond.
Furthermore, the research team is actively pursuing patents for the TBN production technology in the United States, Britain, Japan, and other countries. With this patent protection, they aim to collaborate with enterprises to develop new-generation laser technology and capitalize on the potential of this groundbreaking invention.
Prof. Wang affirms that optical crystals are the cornerstone of laser technology development. The future of laser technology, therefore, hinges on the design theory and production technology of optical crystals. The emergence of the TBN crystal, with its exceptional characteristics and potential applications, promises to reshape the landscape of laser technology.
As the world looks forward to the unveiling of new and improved laser devices, this Chinese research team’s breakthrough stands as a testament to the power of innovation and the relentless pursuit of advancement. Their remarkable achievements not only establish China as a leader in optical crystal theory and materials but also lay the foundation for the next-generation laser technology that will shape our future.