Photo Shows Light As Wave And Particle For First Time
According to quantum mechanics light acts as both a particle and a wave, but now we can finally see what that looks like.
The image was created by shooting a pulse of laser light at a metallic nanowire to make its charged particles vibrate. Next the scientists fired a stream of electrons past the wire holding the trapped light. When the two collided, it created an energy exchange that could be photographed from the electron microscope.
So what does this mean when looking at the photograph? When the photons and electrons collide, they either slow down or speed up, which creates a visualization of a light wave. At the same time the speed change appears as a quanta – packets of energy – transferred between the electrons and photons as particles. In other words, it’s the first case of observing light particles and waves simultaneously.
Light as a particle and a wave
“This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics – and its paradoxical nature – directly,” research leader Fabrizio Carbone explained. This has enormous implications not only for quantum research, but also quantum-based technologies still in development. “Being able to image and control quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale like this opens up a new route towards quantum computing,” he continued.
The experiment results were posted in today’s Nature Communications, which will help other scientists build on this research with further studies. After all, it’s not like we’ve unlocked all of light’s secrets yet – we can barely even tell what color a dress is sometimes.
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