Physicists discovered a new light couple with properties that combines the capacity of light to travel through the imperfections of the material with electron’s freedom in movement.
The researchers from the Imperial College of London succeeded in binding light with an electron, creating a network of photons that work just like an electric circuit.
The light generally interacts with the electrons from the surface and inside a material. The project involves a new class of materials, which are called topological insulators. This type of material allows the light to interact with just one electron.
Another property of light is to travel in straight line. However, when coupled with one electron, it follows the path of its host on the surface of the material.
“The results of this research will have a huge impact on the way we conceive light. Topological insulators were only discovered in the last decade, but are already providing us with new phenomena to study and new ways to explore important concepts in physics,” explained Dr. Vincenzo Giannini from Imperial College of London.
The model was created on a microscopic scale, using a nanoparticle of only 0.000001 millimeters in diameter, which was composed of a topological insulator.
The experiment showed that the electron borrows some of the properties of light. In turn, the light also takes on the property of the electron which permits it to move inside the particle.
For example, an electron would usually stop its movement when encountering defaults inside the material. In this case, the property borrowed from the light permitted the electron to travel free despite any obstacles.
This particular new property of the couple between an electron and the light could help scientists to create photonic networks which would be less vulnerable and have more strength than the classic circuits.
The researchers are now trying to design an experimental situation that would make them able to observe the new property of light. The assumption is that the current technology would permit creating a setting where light could be bonded with an electron.
Making the phenomena observable at a larger scale will allow researchers to move further with the study and to find practical applications for the photon circuit.
At this moment, the studies in quantum physics involve very small objects and very low temperatures, which limit researchers to a very specific setting. Re-creating the couple between a photon and an electron at a room temperature may lead to a breakthrough in physics.
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