In the 1990's a new laser technology, Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers, or VCSELs, emerged and transformed
the data communication industry. The combination of performance characteristics, reliability and performance/cost ratio
allowed high data rate communication to occur over short distances at a commercially viable price. VCSELs have not
been widely used outside of this application space, but with the development of new attributes, such as a wider range of
available wavelengths, the demonstration of arrays of VCSELs on a single chip, and a variety of package form factors,
VCSELs can have a significant impact on medical diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
One area of potential application is neurostimulation. Researchers have previously demonstrated the feasibility of using
1850nm light for nerve stimulation. The ability to create an array of VCSELs emitting at this wavelength would allow
significantly improved spatial resolution, and multiple parallel channels of stimulation. For instance, 2D arrays of 100
lasers or more can be integrated on a single chip less than 2mm on a side. A second area of interest is non-invasive
sensing. Performance attributes such as the narrow spectral width, low power consumption, and packaging flexibility
open up new possibilities in non-invasive and/or continuous sensing. This paper will suggest ways in which VCSELs
can be implemented within these application areas, and the advantages provided by the unique performance
characteristics of the VCSEL. The status of VCSEL technology as a function of available wavelength and array size and
form factors will be summarized.