The research field of semiconductor lasers is at the very core of the larger field of semiconductor photonics (also known as optoelectronics). This is a field encompassing both fundamental science and a wide range of important technologies. From the scientific perspective, light–semiconductor interaction plays a foundational role in understanding semiconductors as gain media. The development of semiconductor lasers since the early 1960s has played an important role in our understanding of the basic optical properties of semiconductors and has revealed a wealth of important physical phenomena over the last five decades or so. From a technological perspective, semiconductor lasers have fundamentally altered the technology landscape and contributed greatly to our modern lifestyle—from miniature semiconductor lasers that are ubiquitous in many tech gadgets (such as CD/DVD players, sensors in our smartphones, and bar-code scanners) to the lasers that serve as workhorses within the modern communication systems that drive our internet, supercomputers, and data centers. As we stand at the beginning of the second half-century of semiconductor lasers, it is important to review the frontiers of the field, to foresee and analyze any potential challenges, and to develop strategies to meet such challenges. As with the larger field of semiconductor photonics, semiconductor laser research faces three major challenges: device size and energy efficiency, wavelength or bandgap diversity, and system integration. These challenges are explored in the following sections.
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