University of Surrey

Laser research

Professor Alf Adams from the University of Surrey is credited with being behind one of the most important UK scientific breakthroughs of all time - the strained quantum well laser, which helped to pave the way for the internet. Quantum well lasers are used in everything from computers and optical phone lines, to supermarket barcodes and DVDs.

Semiconductor lasers receive electrical signals before turning them into pulses of light. In a quantum well laser, there is an extremely thin layer of semi-conducting crystals in which the laser light is generated. Professor Adams discovered that if the crystal lattice of this layer was grown in such a way as to put it under strain, it would lose its symmetry. By doing this, more information can be carried by the light energy.

Further reading