Is it possible to stop light?

7th May 2010

Asked by: John Spencer, London

Yes – using an ingenious trick devised in the mid-1980s by the Russian optical physicist Professor Olga Kocharovskaya at Texas A&M University. She suggested that light could be brought to a halt inside crystals, by controlling their transparency using laser beams. First seen experimentally in 1991, this so-called Electromagnetically Induced Transparency method has now been used to hold light dead still inside crystals for over a second. It’s more than a party-trick, too: such crystals could serve as memories for ultra-fast optical computers.


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