Lasers In A New Light

The pinprick pulses of light from Katsumi Tanigaki's tiny laser seem unlikely vehicles for landmark scientific discoveries. But as he peers at the faint green flashes, the 41-year-old NEC Corp. research manager expects nothing less. He has already pioneered ways to use beams of light to create pure silicon films by severing bonds between molecules--a key to packing more circuits on semiconductors. Now, Tanigaki and his colleagues at NEC's Exploratory Research Laboratory in Tsukuba expect lasers to deliver far grander breakthroughs. "People say that lasers are a mature technology," he muses. "But their most exciting applications are only now coming into view."

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