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New Form of Light: Irish Physicists Uncover Key 'Angular Momentum' Property

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By    |   Wednesday, 18 May 2016 02:16 PM

Physicists in Ireland discovered a new form of light that challenges scientists' understanding of the fundamental nature of light.

"Our discovery will have real impacts for the study of light waves in areas such as secure optical communications,” professor John Donegan of CRANN Institute, Trinity College, said in a statement.

Angular momentum, the rotation of a light beam around its axis, was thought to adhere to Planck's constant, a physical constant that sets the scale for quantum effects. Donegan and colleagues at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics constructed a device to measure angular momentum. Their experiments revealed a form of light where the angular momentum of each photon takes only half of the expected value.

"It's a bit like a tiny, light merry-go-round at a playground. It goes round and round, which is more or less they way people understood light to work. We thought it was impossible for a photon to send you halfway round, but it turns out, it's not," researcher Paul Eastham told CNN.

The exciting result means that a fundamental property of light previously thought to be fixed can be changed. How that might apply to technology will be a topic of further study.

"The biggest impact, other than shaking up our understanding of light, is that this new information could help to improve speed and security along fiber-optic cables, leading to faster, safer Internet connections," Science Alert reported.

This is the first time research has confirmed particles with quantum numbers at fractions of those expected, a possibility predicted by theoretical physics since the 1980s, Science Alert said.

The research was published this week in the journal Science Advances.

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Physicists in Ireland discovered a new form of light that challenges scientists' understanding of the fundamental nature of light.
new, form, light, physicists, research
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2016-16-18
Wednesday, 18 May 2016 02:16 PM
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