Physicists Try To Turn Light Into Matter

The Breit-Wheeler process was first described in 1934 by Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler, in the journal Physical Review. If you smashed two photons together, the collision would result in a positron and an electron. You would have created matter out of light.

It was in 2014 that researchers from Imperial College London devised their experiment, removing the need for those high-energy particles. And now they're finally running the experiment.

"This would be a pure demonstration of Einstein's famous equation that relates energy and mass: E=mc2, which tells us how much energy is produced when matter is turned to energy," explained senior researcher and professor of physics Steven Rose.

"What we are doing is the same but backwards: turning photon energy into mass, i.e. m=E/c2."

The experimental set-up, what the team call a photon-photon collider, is a new type of physics experiment, involving two extremely high-power laser beams.

John W. Campbell wrote about a somewhat more extreme idea in his 1930 classic The Black Star Passes; he called it Lux - solid light:

“Either that,” returned Arcot, “or proof of an amazing degree of technological advancement. It's only a guess, of course—but I have an idea where this kind of matter exists in the solar system. I think you have already seen it—in the gaseous state. You remember, of course, that the Kaxorians had great reservoirs for storing light-energy in a bound state in their giant planes. They had bound light, light held by the gravitational attraction for itself, after condensing it in their apparatus, but they had what amounted to a gas—gaseous light.

It will be matter, matter made of light—light matter—and let us call it a metal.

Via A photon–photon collider in a vacuum hohlraum and ScienceAlert.

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