Researchers stop and store light for 60 seconds

July 26, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

A team of researchers at Germany's University of Darmstadt has succeeded in causing light to stop and then to be held in place for 60 seconds. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers describe how they achieved this feat and how their technique might be used in possible future applications.

In 1999 a team of researchers was able to slow light to just 17 meters per second. That led to another team devising a means for stopping its travel altogether in 2001, albeit for just a fraction of a second. Another team was able to increase that time to 16 seconds just a few months ago. In this new effort, the team in Germany has increased that time to a full minute.

Stopping light and holding it in place, then releasing it is an important step towards the creation of a quantum repeater, a necessary component of a future quantum computer. Light carrying data must be held for a time then retransmitted to a destination based on data it's carrying.

To stop light and hold it the researchers started with a crystal that doesn't normally transmit light at all. They cooled it to a very low temperature then fired a at it to cause a of two states, making it transparent for a precise range of frequencies. Next, they fired another laser through the now transparent crystal while turning off its transparency, trapping the light from the laser inside. They found they were able to hold the light in place for up to 60 seconds. Using the same technique the team found they were able to hold a pattern of light (three stripes) in place for the same amount of time. An analogy might be shining a flashlight into a dark room through a door, then shutting the door, waiting for a minute than opening a door on the other side of the room to let the light out. For light to be held, it has to be stopped, and that's what the team did with their crystal and lasers.

The researchers report that their findings suggest longer light-holding times should be attainable using other crystals. In order to apply their technique in a real-world computer, however, a way will have to be found to allow for holding then transmitting at room temperature.

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More information: Physical Review Letters DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.033601

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1 / 5 (15) Jul 26, 2013
A team of researchers at Germany's University of Darmstadt has succeeded in causing light to stop and then to be held in place for 60 seconds. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers describe how they achieved this feat and how their technique might be used in possible future applications.

It is interesting to know what the mechanism is behind. We know that conventionally light is the wave packet of electromagnetic wave (which say that it can propagate by itself), or event it can propagate via vacuum medium (as below), then in principle it cannot delay or stop!
3 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2013
That's awesome!
1.3 / 5 (12) Jul 27, 2013
What's the big deal about storing light? I was in Florida 30 years ago and you could go into any cheesy souvenir shop there and buy cans of Florida sunshine for a buck.
2 / 5 (8) Jul 28, 2013
Reminds me, vaguely, of the "slow glass" of some Philip K. Dick stories...
1 / 5 (11) Jul 28, 2013
Hey! I did it - I trapped and held light for a whole 24 hours.

My house has an east west alignment on it's front and back doors, and opened the front door at dawn and closed the back door. This filled the room with light and then I shut the front door.

The next morning I left the front door closed and as soon at I opened the back door - the trapped light escaped and the world was filled with light.

What a mirrorcoil.

And to go one and a bit even more bettera, I stepped outside, closed the back door, went around and closed the front door, and exactly 10 hours later, I opened the front door and viola - the trapped light ran back out of the room and lit up the world from he west to east direction.

See anyone can do atomik fizzicks at home!


1 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2013
Still not enough info... but this is in-credible! Still trying to imagine the space/time/relativity ramifications... Say hi to A.I. 2020!!!
1 / 5 (6) Jul 29, 2013
This is intensely interesting in that it seems, on the face of it, to be similar to Bose-Einstein condensate pause-and-release of light - the light in that case passing into the condensate, again, with another referent laser.

If crystals can do the same sort of thing, it at least means we don't have to have near-zero-kelvin cryogenics and magnetic bottles in quantum computers.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 29, 2013
Did they stop light or simply contain it?
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2013
I was wondering the same, somehow I feel its more of a "lossless" (Is there no absorbtion?) reflection inside the crystal than actually slowing down light to 0m/s
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2013
Isn't this pretty much the same thing as photoluminescence from charged phosphorescent materials-- Glow-in-the-dark paint?
1 / 5 (8) Jul 29, 2013
The crystal was as close to a perfectly mirrored enclosure as attainable. Electromagnetism cannot exist at anything below light speed, therefore it was not actually standing still it was simply in a highly reflective enclosure.

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