Photons, which make up light, do not interact. It’s why when you shine two flashlights at one another, nothing out of the ordinary happens. However, scientists have discovered a new form of light as a way of getting photons to interact. This could potentially lead to all kinds of possibilities, from being able to use photons in quantum computing to even making real-life lightsabers.
A New Form of Light
A team of scientists from Harvard University, MIT, and other locations were recently able to demonstrate that photons can be made to interact. They published research in the Science journal describing observations of three photons interacting to stick together and creating a new form of light.
These observations were made during an experiment in which a weak laser beam was shone through a cloud of rubidium atoms. These rubidium atoms were cooled down to just above absolute zero and practically freezing them to a standstill. However, instead of shining through the cloud as single, randomly spaced photons like one would expect, they were bound together in either pairs or triplets.
Additionally, the team realized the photons that were bound together had acquired a small portion of an electron’s mass, which is unique because photons don’t typically have mass. As a result, they were traveling 100,000 times slower than normal photons do. Additionally, the phase of each photon was measured to see how strongly they were interacting. They found that the photons that bound together weren’t just acting independently, but strongly together as well.
These observations show that photons can be made to interact in different ways and that, as a result, they could be used to perform incredibly fast and complex quantum computations.
Discovering that photons can be made to interact with one another opens up all kinds of opportunities. However, the team is taking it one step at a time. The next experiment will be to discover other ways that photons can interact or if they can repel one another. For the latest science news, be sure to visit us at The Benefits Store today.