A new study suggests that by binding light to a single electron, scientists are able to create an entirely new form of light, which has the properties of both. The combination of light and electron has proprieties that could allow the creation of circuits that use photons instead of electrons to provide energy and information.
The study was published on August 5 in the journal Nature Communications by a team of scientists from the Imperial College London. Their discovery could also allow the study of quantum physics, of particles smaller than atoms, on a visible scale such as the superposition phenomenon and at room temperature, without the need to super-cool the particles.
When light touches an object from a normal material, its photons, a basic particle of light, interacts with the numerous electrons found on the surface and within the material of the object. But when researchers used theoretical physics to change how light behaved and used it on a new class of materials known as topological insulators, they found that the photons could interact with only one electron from the surface of the material.
The combination of a photon with an electron led to a new particle with certain common properties of both. Although, light travels in a straight path, when it’s combined with a single electron, it could follow the electron’s path on the surface of the material. In cases where the electrons path would be blocked by imperfections, the new nanoparticle can continue on its path with the help of the photons.
According to Vincenzo Giannini, the lead author of the study:
“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.”
One of the main applications for this discovery consists in creating photonic circuits. They can be applied to solid-state quantum memory systems that are essential to building a quantum computer. The coupled particle would also allow photonic circuits to be more robust and less vulnerable to different forms of disruption and other physical imperfections.
What impact do you think this new form of light will have on quantum computers?
Image source: Imperial College London