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‘Real-Life Lightsabers’ Created by Harvard-MIT Researchers

By Julie S | Sep 26, 2013 09:23 AM EDT

‘Real-Life Lightsabers’ Created by Harvard-MIT Researchers
Lightsabers may have been proven real by a joint Harvard-MIT research program. (Photo : Reuters)

Lightsabers may have been proven real by a joint Harvard-MIT research program.

Prof. Mikhail Lukin from Harvard University and Prof. Vladan Vuletic from MIT worked together in creating a new state of matter showing a very close similarity to the lightsaber Anakin Skywalker used to defend himself in Star Wars.

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According to the research, the research team has “managed to coax photons into binding together to form molecules,” thus creating ‘photonic molecules.’

Lukin said in a press release, “Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other. What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules. This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for quite a while, but until now it hadn't been observed."

He added, "It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to light sabers. When these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies."

The researchers placed rubidium atoms into a vacuum chamber and froze it to a few degrees above zero degrees to create these photonic molecules. After that, they utilized lasers to fire single photons into the atom clouds. As the photon dances through its course, it slows down, sending atoms some energy, but exits the clouds with full energy.

In the next experiment, researchers began firing groups of two photons into the atom cloud promptly. The researchers found out that as the photons exit, they seemed like a single molecule. As explained, the two photons would dance through the atomic cloud like a single molecule and keeping that formation even after going out of the cloud is due to an effect called Rydberg blockade.

This breakthrough, with sadness to say, is not designed to act as a weapon for a more civilized age but for the future of quantum computing.

The research was published in the Sept. 25 issue of the online journal Nature.

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