Photonic Molecules Created to Form Matter

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Light matter

A team comprising scientists from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have managed to get photons (elementary particle which is the basic constituent of light and all types of electromagnetic radiation) to form molecules to create a new state of matter for the first time. Researchers in the experiment were successful to get light particles around together in a solid mass.

The result was achieved accidentally while scientists were exploring the properties of photons when they managed to create molecules by binding the photons together. This is a startling discovery as science identifies photons as massless particles.

To get the photons to interact with one another scientists cooled rubidium atoms in a vacuum chamber to just a few degrees above absolute zero, the coldest possible temperature at which particles do not move. When two photons were fired they did not pass through individually, but emerged on the other side as a single molecule. This, researchers say, is a result of the Rydberg blockade which states that when an atom is excited nearby atoms cannot be excited to the same degree. The effect means that as two photons enter the atomic cloud, the first excites an atom, but it must move forward before the second photon can excite nearby atoms. This is described by the scientists as a pushing and pulling act.

Scientists are yet clueless of its real use but state that this being a new state of matter it could lead to new applications when more probing is done into the photonic molecules’ properties.

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