The mid-infrared (mid-IR) is a wavelength range with a variety of technologically vital applications in molecular sensing, security and defense, energy conservation, and potentially in free-space communication. The recent development and rapid commercialization of new coherent mid-infrared sources have spurred significant interest in the development of mid-infrared optical systems for the above applications. However, optical systems designers still do not have the extensive optical infrastructure available to them that exists at shorter wavelengths (for instance, in the visible and near-IR/telecom wavelengths). Even in the field of optoelectronic sources, which has largely driven the growing interest in the mid-infrared, the inherent limitations of state-of-the-art sources and the gaps in spectral coverage offer opportunities for the development of new classes of lasers, light emitting diodes and emitters for a range of potential applications. In this topical review, we will first present an overview of the current state-of-the-art mid-IR sources, in particular thermal emitters, which have long been utilized, and the relatively new quantum- and interband-cascade lasers, as well as the applications served by these sources. Subsequently, we will discuss potential mid-infrared applications and wavelength ranges which are poorly served by the current stable of mid-IR sources, with an emphasis on understanding the fundamental limitations of the current source technology. The bulk of the manuscript will then explore both past and recent developments in mid-infrared source technology, including narrow bandgap quantum well lasers, type-I and type-II quantum dot materials, type-II superlattices, highly mismatched alloys, lead-salts and transition-metal-doped II-VI materials. We will discuss both the advantages and limitations of each of the above material systems, as well as the potential new applications which they might serve. All in all, this topical review does not aim to provide a survey of the current state of the art for mid-IR sources, but instead looks primarily to provide a picture of potential next-generation optical and optoelectronic materials systems for mid-IR light generation.
- light emitting diodes
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics