New form of light discoverd
Scientists have discovered a new form of light that could make the fiber optics used for internet connections faster and more secure.
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) could change that; they recently measured the angular momentum of photons at a fraction of what was previously believed possible, according to Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster.
The team devised an experiment to effectively reduce the number of dimensions that the light operates in. First, they passed the light through a crystal, turning the beam into a hollow cylinder with a “screw-like structure.” Then, they built a device that measures angular momentum when the light passes through the crystal and also when it bypasses it. In the latter case, the spin was an exact multiple of Planck’s constant, as expected, but when it passed through the crystal, the angular momentum shifted by one-half.
As reported by CNN, previously it was thought that light’s angular momentum was a constant, but the team at Trinity discovered that under certain conditions, it only spins around its axis half as much as it should.
Light, it seems, doesn’t necessarily conform to the rules we thought it did. This could mean big things, the researchers say.
“It’s a bit like a tiny, light merry-go-round at a playground. It goes round and round, which is more or less they way people understood light to work. We thought it was impossible for a photon to send you halfway round, but it turns out, it’s not,” lead researcher Paul Eastham told CNN.
“What I think is so exciting about this result is that even this fundamental property of light, that physicists have always thought was fixed, can be changed,” he said.
“But this science is in a very early stage — the next stage is to work out the consequences, how this could be used in everyday life,” Eastham said.
Eastham suggested that the discovery could have implications for telecommunications and privacy. The nature of these newly found photons are by nature harder to crack, meaning they could deliver data without such a high threat of a third party snooping. It could be used in fiber-optic cables to improve speed and security.
The research was the product of collaboration between the university’s School of Physics and its Center for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN).
Director of CRANN Stefano Sanvito called the work “fundamental scientific research that challenges our understanding of light.
“The topic of light has always been one of interest to physicists, while also being documented as one of the areas of physics that is best understood. This discovery is a breakthrough for the world of physics and science alike.”