Researchers Find Method To Make Light Go 30 Times Faster


Scientists have developed a technique to control the speed of light which, they say, can improve the efficiency of optical telecommunication.

A team from the University of Central Florida demonstrated in a new paper how they were able to speed up the pulse of light to up to 30 times than normal, slow it down to half the speed of light, and even make it travel backward. The team used a special device called a spatial light modulator that allowed to manipulate the space and time properties of light.

The researchers described the technique in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

Controlling The Speed Of Light

There have been several other attempts to control the speed of light. In 2006, for example, another experiment demonstrated a very similar feat. However, previous efforts typically involved passing the light through various materials to manipulate its speed.

This is the first time that the speed of light was adjusted in the open, without using other materials where the pulse would pass through to either speed it up or slow it down. The research team achieved this with the spatial light modulator.

They said that the key to controlling the velocity of the pulse of light is mixing its space and time properties.

"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," stated Ayman Abouraddy, a professor at the University of Central Florida's College of Optics and Photonics.

Improved Optical Telecommunications

The researchers said they hope that the success of their experiment could inspire similar studies to add and refine the technique. They believe that the findings of the study could advance optical telecommunications, which uses light to carry data. By controlling the speed of the pulse of light, the new technique could cut congestion and prevent losses as more devices go online and data transfer grows higher.

"[I]t 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," said Abouraddy.

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