Light to Matter to Light

Posted on February 10, 2007  Comments (1)

Light and Matter United (includes videos) by William J. Cromie:

Lene Hau has already shaken scientists’ beliefs about the nature of things. Albert Einstein and just about every other physicist insisted that light travels 186,000 miles a second in free space, and that it can’t be speeded-up or slowed down. But in 1998, Hau, for the first time in history, slowed light to 38 miles an hour, about the speed of rush-hour traffic.

Two years later, she brought light to a complete halt in a cloud of ultracold atoms. Next, she restarted the stalled light without changing any of its characteristics, and sent it on its way. These highly successful experiments brought her a tenured professorship at Harvard University and a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation award to spend as she pleased.

Now Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, Hau has done it again. She and her team made a light pulse disappear from one cold cloud then retrieved it from another cloud nearby. In the process, light was converted into matter then back into light. For the first time in history, this gives science a way to control light with matter and vice versa.

Related: 2006 MacArthur Fellows2005 MacArthur FellowsSlowing Down Light

One Response to “Light to Matter to Light”

  1. CuriousCat: Materials Engineers Create Perfect Light “sponge”
    June 3rd, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

    “The metamaterial is the first to demonstrate perfect absorption and unlike conventional absorbers it is constructed solely out of metallic elements…”

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