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Researchers have toiled for years, unsuccessfully, in pursuit of a silica optical fiber that would cool itself when excited with infrared laser light. Such a fiber would make it possible to use the most ubiquitous type of laser fiber—silica—without having to cool it externally and, theoretically, produce laser-based devices with exceptionally pure and stable frequencies.

"Instead of removing the heat from the , which takes some doing, you just don't generate the heat in the first place," said Michel Digonnet, who is a research professor of applied physics in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.

A self-cooling laser could be used, for example, to create advanced fiber amplifiers—devices that amplify signals that travel through them and are instrumental in transporting information encoded on optical signals over very long distances. Currently, this process generates heat that degrades the quality of the light signal; using a self-cooled fiber would eliminate this problem.

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