Scientists create ’lightsaber’ molecules
2013-09-26 0:00

By Michael Thomas | Digital Journal

Don’t expect to begin your Jedi training any time soon, but scientists have created molecules that, in effect, behave like the deadly "Star Wars" weapons.

The findings are significant in that these molecules are a totally new form of matter.

The research occurred at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, led by Mikhail Lukin, a Harvard professor of physics and Vladan Vuletic, an MIT physics professor. The results are described in the journal Nature.

The molecules the team created, formed by the fusion of photons, challenges previous assumptions that photons, particles of light, are without mass. Photon molecules behave not like lasers, but more like lightsabers.

To create them, the researchers pumped rubidium atoms into a vacuum chamber, used lasers to cool them to just above absolute zero, then used weak laser pulses to fire photons into the atom clouds.

The photon then excites other atoms with its energy as it passes through the cloud, slowing the photon down. When the team fired two photons into the cloud, the result was one new photon molecule.


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