Physicists have managed to freeze light for a fraction of a second. The light pulse was hold still for a few hundred-thousandths of a second, and then was sent on its way, without taking all energy away from it. New computers could be based on this someday they claim.
The research differs from work published in 2001 that was hailed at the time as having brought light to a standstill. In that work, light pulses were technically "stored" briefly when individual particles of light, or photons, were taken up by atoms in a gas.
Harvard University researchers have now topped that feat by truly holding light and its energy in its tracks - if only for a few hundred-thousandths of a second.
Harnessing light particles to store and process data could aid the still-distant goal of so-called quantum computers, as well as methods for communicating information over long distances without risk of eavesdropping.
The research may also have applications for improving conventional fibre-optic communications and data-processing techniques that use light as an information carrier. Lukin said the present research is just another step toward efforts to control light, but said additional work is needed to determine if it can aid these applications.