Physicists Created a New Form of Light

Physicists Created a New Form of Light

“The interaction of individual photons has been a very long dream for decades,” Vuletic says.

Light is one of the biggest blessings of nature as it enables us to see things around us. It is made up of tiny particles called Photons. One of the key features of these particles is that they do not interact with each other. This explains why interaction between different light beams is passive and nothing much happens in such cases. If you want a physical proof of it as Star Wars has mingled up your concepts, get hold of a couple of electronic torches.

Switch them on in a dark place and make a cross of both the beams. You will observe that nothing much will happen because photons just carry on their own path without interfering with the nearby companions.

The latest report has changed all this. Scientists have found a way to make photons react. Researchers from top universities have created a form of light where photons can join with each other. For now, 3 photons can stick with each other. This will make all the fiction of Star Wars a reality. The most tantalizing thing that will be possible with advancements in this field will be ‘Lightsabers’.

Beams of this new light will have the ability to push, pull or merge together to make a SINGLE luminous stream. All the findings of this international research were published in ‘Science’, a famous journal for scientific knowledge, and pointed towards a revolution in quantum computing.

Both the leading researchers, Vladan Vuletic (Physics professor at MIT) and Mikhail Lukin (Physicist at Harvard), have been trying to create a new photonic matter for years. They had their initial success in 2013 when two-photon particles joined together. Their quest for combining a higher number of particles continued and it finally resulted in this form of light. Vuletic said:

“You can combine oxygen molecules to form O2 and O3, but not O4, and for some molecules, you can’t form even a three-particle molecule. So it was an open question: Can you add more photons to a molecule to make bigger and bigger things?”

Photons are basically massless particles and that’s why they go through each other as if they were not there. The researchers used rubidium atoms for their experiments. They were cooled to a temperature as low as a millionth of a degree above absolute zero. This ceases any movement among them and gives them a shape of a dense cloud. After that, a very weak beam of light was shone on that cloud.

The photons that passed through it were collected on the other side for examination. It was observed that photons appeared as pairs or triplets. This showed that some sort of interaction has taken place between them. They also had gained a little bit of mass during this process. Consequently, the speed of these photons reduced by 100 000 times.

The theory proposed about this joining, from the researching team is that photons skip between rubidium atoms. During its stay on an atom, photon creates a hybrid atom-photon which is called a ‘Polariton’. As multiple polaritons can be present inside the cloud, they can react with each other by making use of their rubidium atom part. At the time when polaritons are about to leave the cloud, rubidium atoms stay inside it while joined photons are eliminated. According to the estimate of the scientists, all this takes place within a millionth of a second.

A number of photons and their rate of emitting out was also recorded. Other than that, their phase was also measured (before entering and after leaving the cloud). In this regard, Venkatramani said:

“The phase tells you how strongly they’re interacting, and the larger the phase, the stronger they are bound together.”

This interaction of photons holds key to all the quantum devices. Qubits can be utilized in a much more efficient manner following this discovery. The bonding between photons helps to carry information and quantum computers can be configured to perform very quickly against complex and unsolvable problems. Vuletic seems to agree to that as he said,

“Photons can travel very fast over long distances, and people have been using light to transmit information, such as in optical fibers. 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.”

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