Scientists Create New Form Of Light

Posted: Feb 16 2018, 1:45am CST | by , Updated: Feb 16 2018, 1:48am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Discover New Form of Light
Credit: MIT

MIT researchers have found a way to make light particles interact and repel each other like atoms in other matter

Scientists have discovered a new form of light by combining three photons. The finding could lead to the better understanding of the fundamental nature of light and could also revolutionize quantum computing.

Light is made up of extremely small particles called photons. But unlike oridinary matter, these particles do not interact with each another. This is the reason why beams from two flashlights simply pass through each other when they are being crossed.

However, MIT researchers have made it possible for the light particles to interact and repel each other like atoms in the matter and created an entirely new form of light.

"The interaction of individual photons has been a very long dream for decades.” Lead researcher Vladan Vuletic said in a statement.

In the experiment, researchers shone a very weak laser beam through a dense cloud of ultracold rubidium atoms and found that photons bind together in pairs or triplets, suggesting some kind of interaction occurred between them. Moreover, photons that streamed out as pairs and triplets also gained a small amount of mass, which was equivalent to an electron.

Usually, photons have no mass and they travel at 300,000 kilometers per second. But newly bound photons were relatively sluggish and were traveling about 100,000 times slower than normal noninteracting photons.

"Photons can travel very fast over long distances, and people have been using light to transmit information, such as in optical fibers," said Vuletic. "If photons can influence one another, then if you can entangle these photons, and we've done that, you can use them to distribute quantum information in an interesting and useful way."

In addition to tracking the number of photons, the team also measured the phase of photons, before and after traveling through the atom cloud and found that photons remained glued to each other even after they've left the cloud.

Next, reseachers are hoping to find new ways to observe more photons interactions such as repulsion, where photons may move away from each other like billiard balls.

"It's completely novel in the sense that we don't even know sometimes qualitatively what to expect," said Vuletic. "With repulsion of photons, can they be such that they form a regular pattern, like a crystal of light? Or will something else happen? It's very uncharted territory."

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