Could there be a new form of light?
Scientists at Imperial College London recently discovered that there could be a new form of light. The scientists suggest that light photons can be bound to a single electron, thus combining both properties.
How are Photons of Light Created?
To get right into the technical details, light photons are produced when electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom drop from a higher orbit to a lower orbit. When this happens, the energy change produces a photon. The photon has a frequency, its color, that corresponds to the distance that it “falls”.
For perspective on a huge scale, imagine if the Moon suddenly was orbiting the Earth at half the distance from the Earth than it normally was. This would cause some serious energy changes.
This photon can then travel and be “perceived” by our eyes. Considering that there are so many frequencies (colors) of photons, they are constantly passing through our eyes without our noticing. While we may only perceive “light” to be a white or yellow color, all colors are really just different frequencies of photons.
Recently, scientists at Imperial College London found that photons were able to take on properties of electrons and actually orbit an atoms nucleus, just like an electron. Likewise, the scientists found that electrons took on some of the characteristics of photons.
“Here we show that under the influence of light a single electron in a topologically protected surface state creates a surface charge density similar to a plasmon in a metallic nanoparticle.” – Siroki et al
This discovery could improve the conductivity of electrons in electrical circuits. As electrons will stop if there is a “kink” in the circuit, using electrons coupled with photons, which can move over any imperfections on surfaces, could prove highly valuable.
As always, more research will be needed to determine the full impact of this discovery, and its applications in quantum physics.
Resources for Educators:
- Read the academic article.
- For more on teaching about light to beginner students, read NASA’s overview here.
- Creating Matter From Light – another study from Imperial College London.