What's a Saser? A sonic laser, of course

Everone knows what a laser is (especially the US Navy), but what about a saser? That would be a sonic laser — a device that creates a sonic beam of extremely high frequency. Developed by Anthony Kent at the University of Nottingham, the Saser works like so: First, you bombard a "superlattice" material, which consists of several microlayers of gallium arsenide and aluminum arsenide, with intense light. The layers vibrate, producing phonons, or sound "particles." Because of the design of the lattice, the phonons combine until they're highly concentrated, eventually creating a sound beam with a frequency in the terahertz range. Voilà — sound amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

Great, but what's it good for? That's when things get slightly muted, but Kent postulates that a terahertz saser could eventually lead to computer processors that are thousands of times faster than today's chips. Uh, awesome, but we were kind of hoping for a sonic screwdriver.

University of Nottingham, via Science Fiction in the News