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Making Wakes of Light

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 06:00AM

We are all familiar with wakes in one form or another, likes those made in a body of water, or the sonic booms of supersonic aircraft. Cherenkov radiation you are probably less familiar with, but is also a kind of wake, but involves light instead of water or sound. Now researchers at Harvard University have gone a made the interesting and impressive step of creating and manipulating wakes of light on the surface of a metal.

Cherenkov radiation is created when a charged particles travels faster than the phase velocity of light in a medium. The speed of light in a vacuum may be the Universe's speed limit, but when light is in a medium, like air or water, it propagates slower, leaving room for particles to travel faster, without breaking the ultimate limit. The researchers managed to recreate this with plasmons on the surface of a metal, with the charge moving along a one-dimensional metamaterial. The researchers found they could manipulate the wake, making it go in different directions, and even go backwards, by controlling the angle the light was shining on the metamaterial.

This research could potentially be used to study wake physics in new ways, and from that discover new means of controlling light and plasmons. Plasmons are already seen as a path to advanced nano-optics that will allow for technologies not currently possible.

Source: Harvard University

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