Molecules’ made of light may be the basis of future computers
“It’s not a molecule per se, but you can imagine it as having a similar kind of structure,” says NIST’s Alexey Gorshkov. “We’re learning how to build complex states of light that, in turn, can be built into more complex objects. This is the first time anyone has shown how to bind two photons a finite distance apart.
“Lots of modern technologies are based on light, from communication technology to high-definition imaging,” Gorshkov says. “Many of them would be greatly improved if we could engineer interactions between photons.”
For example, the research could lead to new photonic computing systems, replacing slow electrons with light and reducing energy loses in the conversion from electrons to light and back.
“The detailed understanding of the [physics] also opens up an avenue towards understanding the full and much richer many-body problem involving an arbitrary number of photons in any dimension,” the authors state in a paper forthcoming in Physical Review Letters.
The findings build on previous research that several team members contributed to before joining NIST. In 2013, collaborators from Harvard, Caltech and MIT found a way to bind two photons together so that one would sit right atop the other, superimposed as they travel.