The present invention provides a new type of semiconductor light source that can produce a high peak power output and is not injection, e-beam, or optically pumped. The present invention is capable of producing high quality coherent or incoherent optical emission. The present invention is based on current filaments, unlike conventional semiconductor lasers that are based on p-n junctions. The present invention provides a light source formed by an electron-hole plasma inside a current filament. The electron-hole plasma can be several hundred microns in diameter and several centimeters long. A current filament can be initiated optically or with an e-beam, but can be pumped electrically across a large insulating region. A current filament can be produced in high gain photoconductive semiconductor switches. The light source provided by the present invention has a potentially large volume and therefore a potentially large energy per pulse or peak power available from a single (coherent) semiconductor laser. Like other semiconductor lasers, these light sources will emit radiation at the wavelength near the bandgap energy (for GaAs 875 nm or near infra red). Immediate potential applications of the present invention include high energy, short pulse, compact, low cost lasers and other incoherent light sources.