Scientists from the University of Central Florida have created a way to control the speed of light, in a sensational new experiment.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications details how scientists not only managed to speed up a pulse of light and also slow it down but they also successfully made it travel backward.
This achievement is an important step that could one day lead to more efficient optical communication since the technique could be used to alleviate data congestion and prevent the loss of information.
And with more and more devices online and data transfer speeds increasingly higher, this type of control will be necessary, according to the authors.
Previous attempts to control the speed of light have included passing light through various materials to adjust its speed.
However, the new technique allows the speed to be adjusted for the first time in the open, without using any material to accelerate it or slow it down.
“This is the first clear demonstration of controlling the speed of a pulse light in free space,” explained study co-author Ayman Abouraddy, a professor in UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics.
“And it opens up doors for many applications, an optical buffer being just one of them, but most importantly it’s done in a simple way, that’s repeatable and reliable.”
In the new study, the researchers successfully demonstrated that they had the ability to seed up a pulse of light up to 30 times the speed of light, slow it down to half the speed of life, and also make it travel backward.
This was achieved with the help of a device known as a spatial light modulator, an instrument that allowed scientists to mix the space and time properties of light, which allowed them to take control f the velocity of the pulse of life.
“We’re able to control the speed of the pulse by going into the pulse itself and reorganizing its energy such that its space and time degrees of freedom are mixed in with each other,” Abouraddy said.
“We’re very happy with these results, and we’re very hopeful it’s just the starting point of future research,” he said.