Nanoscale lasers in development at Arizona University and the Technical University of Eindhoven could pave the way to a future of faster computers and more reliable internet access.
A team of researchers working on a collaborative project between the two universities have broken through previous limitations on how small lasers can be made.
Research leader Cun-Zheng Ning said a combination of semiconductors and pure metals such as gold and silver have helped to find a way around the diffraction limit that previously frustrated engineers.
He commented: "It turns out that the electrons excited in metals can help you confine a light in a laser to sizes smaller than that required by the diffraction limit."
The team was able to make a laser as thin as about one-quarter of the wavelength or smaller, as opposed to one half.
In 2001 the world's first nanowire nanolaser was successfully tested at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.