Tissue-thin lasers flex to hug curves

Membrane lasers transferred onto a five pound banknote
A series of lasers (yellow) only one micrometre thick covers the transparent pane of a British banknote. Credit: M. Karl et al./Nat. Commun.

Optics and photonics

01 May 2018

Bendy membrane lasers could serve as security barcodes.

A laser in the form of a flexible and lightweight membrane can be affixed to objects as diverse as banknotes, contact lenses and fingernails.

Although engineers can easily make stretchy, bendable light-emitting diodes from carbon-based polymers, early polymer lasers have tended to be rigid and bulky, partly because they require a flat, thick support surface. Malte Gather and his colleagues at the University of St Andrews, UK, devised a flexible polymer laser less than one micrometre thick. The researchers then lifted this ‘membrane’ laser off its supporting substrate and transferred it onto a new surface. An external source provides power to the device.

The resulting laser can be tuned to emit light in a unique combination of wavelengths, making it useful as a barcode-like security label. Such laser tags could make it more difficult to counterfeit banknotes and could help in authenticating identification documents, the authors say.

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