The key to this new research is the “exciton”. This describes the pairing of an electron that has been kicked into a higher energy state by a photon, with a hole or gap it (or another electron) leaves within the shell or orbit around the nucleus of an atom.
Despite its new high energy state the electron remains paired with one of the holes or positions that has been vacated by electrons moving to a higher energy state. When an electron’s high energy state decays again it is drawn back to the hole it is linked to and a photon is once again emitted.
That cycle usually happens very quickly but if one could find a way to freeze or hold an exciton in place for any length of time one could delay the reemitting of a photon and effectively slow or even freeze light.
The researchers, led by PhD researcher Andrea Fischer and Dr. Rudolf A. Roemer from the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics, looked at the possibilities presented by some tiny rings of matter accidentally made during the manufacture quantum dots. When creating these very small quantum dots of a few 10-100nm in size physicists some times cause the material to splash when depositing it onto a surface leaving, not a useful dot, but a doughnut shaped ring of material. Though originally created by accident these “Aharonov-Bohm nano rings” are now a source of study in their own right and in this case seemed just the right size for enclosing an exciton. However simply being this useful size does not, in itself, allow them to contain or hold an exciton for any length of time.
However remarkably the Warwick led research team have found that if a combination of magnetic and electric fields is applied to these nano-rings they can actually then simply tune the electric field to freeze an exciton in place or let it collapse and re-emit a photon.
While other researchers have used varying exotic states of matter to dramatically slow the progress of light this is the first time a technique has been devised to completely freeze and release individual photons at will.
Dr Roemer said:
“This has significant implications for the development of light based computing which would require an effective and reliable mechanism such as this to manipulate light. “
The technique could also be used to develop a “buffer” of incoming photons which could re-release them in sequence at a later date thus creating an effect not unlike the concept of “Slow Glass” first suggested by science fiction author Bob Shaw several decades ago.
The new research paper is entitled “Exciton storage in a nanoscale Aharonov-Bohm ring with electric field tuning" by University of Warwick PhD student Andrea M.Fischer, Dr Rudolf Roemer (University of Warwick) Vivaldo L. Campo Jr. (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos-UFSCar, Brazil), and Mikhail E. Portnoi (University of Exeter), and has just been published in Physical Review Letters (PRL)
For further information please contact:Dr. Rudolf A. Roemer, Department of Physics, University of Warwick,
Dr. Rudolf A. Roemer | EurekAlert!
Graphene microphone outperforms traditional nickel and offers ultrasonic reach
27.11.2015 | Institute of Physics
Tracking down the 'missing' carbon from the Martian atmosphere
25.11.2015 | California Institute of Technology
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
27.11.2015 | Press release
27.11.2015 | Life Sciences
27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences