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Future Light Sabers? Scientists Turn Light Into Matter

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Future Light Sabers? Scientists Turn Light Into Matter


What would you say if I told you that science has finally discovered a way to eventually manufacture actual light sabers just like those used in the Star Wars movie series? Crazy right? Well it’s true.

Scientists at Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms were able to successfully bind together photons into a new state of matter that up until now has been entirely theoretical in nature. The successful test was published in a September 25 paper in Nature.

The finding is tremendous, because it turns the understanding of light on its head. Instead of particles without any mass that don’t interact with one another, these new “photonic molecules” are made up of photos that do interact with each other and develop into molecules with mass. This discovery could potentially lead to real world devices that may not be very much unlike the mythical light sabers of Star Wars.

How Photons Can Interact

The discovery will transform what scientists understand about light. The process used to coerce photons into interacting with one another was to create a “medium” within which the binding interaction could take place.

This medium was quite unusual – it consisted of rubidium atoms inside of a vacuum chamber cooled down to a few degrees above absolute zero. Injecting very weak laser pulses into the environment, combined with the introduction of single photos, led to the final desired interaction between the two photos.

How Photons Can Interact

Observations revealed that as the photons entered into the ultra-cold cloud of atoms, the energy from the photos excited surrounding atoms, which slowed down the photon itself. Scientists observed that as the photon exits the cloud of atoms, the energy transferred from the photon to each atom ends up exiting the cloud with the photon as well. The amazing part of the experiment is that when two photos are injected into the ultra-cool cloud of atoms, they exit the cloud together as a molecule with mass.

Mikhail Lukin, Harvard Professor of Physics, told reporters that it’s essentially an indirect photonic interaction, facilitated by the atoms in the cloud.

“It’s a photonic interaction that’s mediated by the atomic interaction. That makes these two photons behave like a molecule, and when they exit the medium they’re much more likely to do so together than as single photons.” (1)

The primary application mentioned for this technology is quantum computing, where scientists hope to transmit quantum information, but have had no way to create interactions between quanta for the purpose of switching and handling quantum logic operations. Photon molecules could represent a solution.

One of the oddest suggested practical uses of the photon molecules is to create other physical structures like crystals completely out of light. Luken explains that because this is a “new state of matter”, until the behavior of those molecules are fully understood, practical applications in the future are difficult to predict.

References & Image Credits:

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  • Anonymous

    Bound photons? Crystals of light? Well, that’s cool.

“The thing about the truth is, not a lot of people can handle it.” -Conor McGregor

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
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Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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