back to article Boffins build a tiny nanolaser that can be inserted inside our cells

A tiny laser, a thousand times thinner than the average single strand of human hair, might be able to slip inside microprocessor chips or take closeups of human tissues one day, according to a paper published in Nature Materials. The system emits near infrared or visible light just 50 to 150 nanometers wide. A team of …

  1. RGE_Master

    Can someone confirm if "erbium irons" is right or if it's meant to be "erbium ions"?

    Thanks

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      That would be ironic.

      1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        I'm sure they have an iron-clad excuse.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          I'm sure they have an iron-clad excuse.

          Which they'll stick to with steely determination.

  2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Surely its not "boffins" inventing this teensey laser, but "bright sparks"?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Coat

    Enquiring minds want to know:

    Does it work with sharks?

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

      You beat me to it!

      Incidentally, I thought we wanted to mount frikkin' BIG lasers ON their heads, not tiny lasers IN their heads. Still, pretty cool boffinry

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

        IN their heads firing OUT from their eyes, crank the power up (it's all water cooled) and your laser sharks are now stealth laser sharks!

        1. Schultz
          Boffin

          stealth laser sharks!

          According to the boffin, their "tiny lasers operate at powers that are orders of magnitude smaller than observed in any existing lasers". So your stealthed laser shark can score a direct hit without revealing himself to the target!

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

      Implant several million of these cells into the centre of a shark's head and find a way to detect attack mode in the shark's nervous system y voila.

      Next, leg and lung implants for sharks.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        That's a crazy plan

        The fact that sharks have been hanging around the oceans for something like a half a billion years suggests they want nothing to do with this land-based life malarkey and would immediately return to the water and where would you be then? I'll tell you. Shark-based underwater football. And you don't want that.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: That's a crazy plan

          Close, but that's Shark-based underwater laser football actually.

        2. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

          Re: That's a crazy plan

          Underwater laser tag?

        3. Scott 53

          Re: That's a crazy plan

          Shark-based underwater football. And you don't want that.

          Oh, I do. Ian Great White and Steve Bull up front.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

        I'm afraid your idea isn't feasible: several million would only get you a very weak beam about a quarter of a millimetre across. I'm willing to grant you the legs and lungs, though.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

          @ Rich11

          I'm a crappy biologist snd not much of a laser engineer but going forward, aI was wondering how many cells implanted into my forefinger would make it interesting.

          But underwater Shark football? I could market that.

          1. Psmo Bronze badge

            Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

            underwater Shark football? I could market that.

            One thing I never knew I needed.

            Now I'm going to have to avoid thinking about that all evening.

          2. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

            how many cells implanted into my forefinger would make it interesting

            That would be a very subjective assessment. How uninteresting do you consider your forefinger at the moment?

        2. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

          1. Legs: by themselves no good. You need limb girdles to attach the legs to and you also need a suite of motorneurons in the shark spinal cord to send axons into the leg. Oh and donning my Muscleguy hat you also need to make shark muscle precursor cells migrate to fill those limbs with muscles so they are more than antlers*. You can't just plonk legs on a shark and expect it all to work you know. Just like plonking wings on Pegasus or a gryphon without any hint of a limb girdle doesn't make them biologically plausible.

          2. Lungs: In parallel with the gills or in series? flow through as birds have or blind sacks like mammals have? If these are meant, in association with the legs discussed above to enable the shark to be terrestrial then we need lots more adaptations like a waterproof skin, a diaphragm to enable the lung to work (see above for migrating muscle precursors to make this). Some sharks are ovoviparous (they bear live young) so that might work.

          *Antlers are basically muscleless, jointless legs. They even have the same branching structure of limbs: one, two, many. Moose antlers are even described as palmate. Yes, deer are hexapods but the extra limbs are non functional in locomotion: wrong direction, no limb girdle, no muscles, no joints.

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

            Antlers are basically muscleless, jointless legs.

            Really? And there's me thinking they were secondary sexual characteristics of certain cervids. Yes, they are bone, but they are discarded and regrown every year.

            Moose antlers are even described as palmate.

            They are described as palmate when they take on a flattened and spread out appearance, just like a human palm - or for that matter, the broad leaves of a palm tree.

      3. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

        Given how long sharks have been around and how long mammals have, what makes you think legs and lungs are necessarily a benefit?

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Enquiring minds want to know:

        Next, leg and lung implants for sharks

        Did David Brin's Uplift novels not teach you that uplifting sharks is a really, really bad idea?

  4. JDX Gold badge

    Hurry up with the nanobots already!

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    When I was a kid

    there was some talk about using lasers on chips for processing, As transistors shrank faster the idea seemed to fade away. I wonder if this might bring it back for few months.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: When I was a kid

      Wasn't the original Star Trek Enterprise supposed to use optical computing of some sort?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When I was a kid

        Judging by the clickety clackety noises it used to make, I think tiny people with tiny abacuses (abaci?) is more likely.

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: Clickety-clack

          For Clickety-clack, you want to look into (listen for) the computer on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

          I swear one scene showed a step-by-step telephone switch. The console was recycled from EMERAC, a prop built by IBM for the movie "The Desk Set". (That feels to me like GM building props for "Unsafe at Any Speed", intentionally).

          Anyway, "Because this was in a submarine with a big glass window" for all of you wondering

          "What's the Elasmobranchii Angle?"

          1. Alister Silver badge

            Re: Clickety-clack

            They definitely used the soundtrack of Strowger uniselectors, so maybe they had some real ones wired up?

            Doing nights in a telephone exchange in the late seventies / early eighties, I will never forget the chugga-chugga-chugga-braaaaaaaap noise.

  6. Alister Silver badge

    Glow-in-the-dark organs

    The latest fashion trend?

    1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

      Re: Glow-in-the-dark organs

      You can already get glow-in-the-dark protective coverings for a certain organ. The usual ones are good for sizes up to approximately 2 linguine, beyond that you may need something custom-made.

  7. defiler Silver badge

    So you can put them in cells, and they'll use energy...

    Can I use them to lose weight as I glow?

    1. david 12 Bronze badge

      Re: So you can put them in cells, and they'll use energy...

      Horses sweat. Men perspire. Women with implanted lasers gently glow.

      1. Psmo Bronze badge

        Re: So you can put them in cells, and they'll use energy...

        Women with implanted lasers gently GLOW.

        At least they would get their own Netflix series.

  8. GX5000

    No water beasts required

    It's not sharks..

    It's NANOBOTS with FREAKING LAZERS!!

    Now about that shark nanobot design...

  9. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Boffin

    "Excitingly, our tiny lasers operate at..."

    It's not even Friday and we get a subtle laser joke from Prof Schuck.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    one serious question

    can I fit them lasers into my eyeglasses to zap that big mother(...) that took the last parking bay?!

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Memo from the Grand BOFH.

    Research nanolasers focused on the Boss's crotch.

    Find out if nanolasers can be self-replicating.

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