A photonic nano device created by U.S. scientists has a wide range of potential uses and provides substantially more optical data storage.

Termed a plasmonic laser antenna, the design consists of a metallic nanostructure, known as an optical antenna, integrated onto the facet of a commercial semiconductor laser.

The research was led by Harvard University Professors Ken Crozier and Federico Capasso.

The optical antenna collects light from the laser and concentrates it to an intense spot measuring tens of nanometers, or about one-thousandth the width of a single human hair, Crozier said. The device could be integrated into optical data storage platforms and used to write bits far smaller than what’s now possible with conventional methods.

While optical antennas are similar to conventional antennas used for wireless communications, they are much smaller in scale.

This invention extends the reach of semiconductor lasers — which have the greatest commercial penetration of all lasers — into the nanoscale and down to dimensions much smaller than a wavelength, Capasso said.

Their report appears in the journal Applied Physics Letters.