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NEW SCIENTIFIC RECORD: Move over Einstein. We stopped light for one entire minute. Light trapped inside crystal.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

German scientists have succeeded in stopping light, ostensibly the fastest thing in the universe for an entire minute, effectively smashing earlier records. Researchers at Darmstadt Technical University achieved the remarkable feat by trapping it in a crystal.  

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The researchers explained how they stopped the light using a technique called electromagnetically induced transparency. The results were published in a paper published this month in the journal Physical Review Letters. 

Light normally travels about 11 million miles in one minute at full speed, which is the equivalent to more than 20 round trips to the moon. 

"One minute is extremely, extremely long," Thomas Krauss, Professor of optoelectronics at the University of St Andrews told the New Scientist. "This is indeed a major milestone." 

Professor Thomas Halfmann, Christian Hubrich and PhD student Georg Heinze used the same technique to store and then retrieve an image consisting of three stripes. "We showed you can imprint complex information on your light beam," researcher Georg Heinze says.  


The results may further light-based research and could make it possible to store data within beams of light, which could then be sent over long distances. It could also give experts clues on accelerating light beyond the universal speed limit. 

Halfmann and his colleagues then fired a control laser beam at an opaque crystal, triggering a quantum reaction that turned the crystal transparent.
 
The scientists then directed a second light source at the now-transparent crystal. The control laser was then turned off, turning the crystal opaque. The light from the secondary source then remained trapped inside the crystal. 
The opacity meant that the light inside could no longer bounce around - in other words, the light had been stopped. 
The team, after multiple trials was then able to extend the period of time in which the light remained halted within the crystal until they reached the record-breaking minute. 
Heinze said it should even be possible to achieve longer light storage times with other crystals, because they have pushed their current material close to its physical limit. 

Light normally travels at just under 300 million meters per second in a vacuum. This experiment was the first time scientists have managed to halt it. Physicists in 1999 managed to slow light down to just 17 meters per second and then halt it completely two years later, though only for a fraction of a second.  


Earlier this year, researchers kept it still for 16 seconds using cold atoms.


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