Solid Light

September 10th, 2014 by

Researchers from Princeton University in New Jersey and ETH Zurich in Switzerland have begun crystallizing light. The researchers are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop new materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons so that they become fixed in place. To build their machine, the researchers created a structure made of superconducting materials that contains 100 billion atoms engineered to act as a single “artificial atom.” They placed the artificial atom close to a superconducting wire containing photons. By the rules of quantum mechanics, the photons on the wire inherit some of the properties of the artificial atom. Normally photons do not interact with each other, but in this system the researchers are able to create new behavior in which the photons begin to interact in some ways like particles. The researchers set up a situation where light effectively behaves like a particle in the sense that two photons can interact very strongly. The current device is relatively small, with only two sites where an artificial atom is paired with a superconducting wire. The researchers say that by expanding the device and the number of interactions, they can increase their ability to simulate more complex systems – growing from the simulation of a single molecule to that of an entire material. In the future, the team plans to build devices with hundreds of sites with which they hope to observe exotic phases of light such as superfluids and insulators.

Source: Princeton University

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