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'Liquid Light' Flows Around Corners

Ralph McQuarrie created a number of art works that set the look and feel of the Star Wars universe.


(Light radiates from thin slots)

In this early concept painting, Han Solo has a lightsaber, the stormtroopers have lightsabers, and Chewbacca appears to be carrying the Princess. McQuarrie envisioned the hallways being lit indirectly, through thin slots. Defying standard principles, the light would radiate from these narrow spaces at 360 degrees. It would be a testament to the genius of these people that they discovered a key to the universe that permitted them to harness an incredible energy in this manner.

Now, physicists have created a kind of "liquid light" at room temperature with remarkable properties:

Anyone who’s taken any sort of physics knows that light can travel as photons or particles as well as waves. It may be hard to imagine, but under certain conditions, light can actually be turned into another form, a superfluid. In liquid form, instead of halting at an object and illuminating it, light flows around objects, just like water.

Daniele Sanvitto of CNR Nanotec was the lead researcher. He said, "The extraordinary observation in our work is that we have demonstrated that superfluidity can also occur at room temperature, under ambient conditions, using light-matter particles called polaritons."

To create a “frictionless flow” of light, scientists took two special mirrors that were ultra-reflective. In between, they placed an extremely thin layer of organic molecules, just a 130-nanometers thick. They shot this with a laser pulse lasting 35-femtoseconds.

"Under normal conditions, a fluid ripples and whirls around anything that interferes with its flow. In a superfluid, this turbulence is suppressed around obstacles, causing the flow to continue on its way unaltered. "

(Via New Breakthrough Allows Scientists to Create “Liquid Light” with Ease)

Who knows, perhaps lightsabers are next?

Thanks to Winchell Chung (@nyrath on Twitter) creator of the Atomic Rockets site, for the tip and the reference for this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/29/2017)

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