Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have demonstrated that photons (light particles) emitted from light sources embedded in a complex and disordered structure are able to mutually coordinate their paths through the medium. This is a consequence of the photons' wave properties, which give rise to the interaction between different possible routes. The results are published in the scientific journal, Physical Review Letters.
The real world is complex and messy. The research field of photonics, which explores and exploits light, is no exception, and in, for example, biological systems the statistical disorder is unavoidable.
Drunken people and photons
"We work with nanophotonic structures in order to control the emission and propagation of photons. We have discovered in the meantime, that inevitable inaccuracies in the structures lead to random scattering. As a consequence, the transport of photons follow a random path – like a drunken man staggering through the city's labyrinthine streets after an evening in the pub," explains David García, postdoc in Quantum Photonics at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
If we continue with this analogy, then it is not certain that just because one drunken man comes home safely, then a whole crowd of drunken people spreading out from the pub will also find their way through the city's winding streets. There is no relationship between the different random travellers.
But there is when you are talking about photons. They can 'sense' each other and coordinate their travel through a material, according to new research.
"We have inserted a very small light source in a nanophotonic structure, which contains disorder in the form of a random collection of light diffusing holes. The light source is a so-called quantum dot, which is a specially designed nanoscopic light source that can emit photons. The photons are scattered in all directions and are thrown back and forth. But photons are not just light particles, they are also waves, and waves interact with each other. This creates a link between the photons and we can now demonstrate in our experiments that the photons' path through the material is not independent from the other photons," explains David García.
Spectroscopy of complex materials
By analysing the path of the photons through the medium valuable insight is potentially gained about microscopic complex structures.
"The method could be a new way to measure the spatial properties of complex disordered materials, like biological tissue, and since the light sources are very small, you will be able to place them without destroying the material and you have the potential for very high spatial resolution," explains David García.
University of Copenhagen: http://www.ku.dk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Institute for Highway Safety is known for crash-test safety ratings, but as cars get smarter there's a need to look beyond crashworthiness
Researchers have long struggled to resolve what happens to information when it falls inside a black hole, but the famous physicist says he has a solution
Researchers have been using muons to take a peek inside the nuclear reactors in Japan that melted down in 2011. The results could aid the continuing cleanup operations.
Neutrinos, created by violent phenomena such as black holes and exploding stars, could hold the key to the universe’s most distant and mysterious events
Better MRI scanners could result from a trick in which a magnetic field springs up from nowhere, using materials famous for their link to invisibility cloaks
Water locked away in rocks for 1.5 billion years reveals conditions were right for complex organic molecules to form in deep sea hydrothermal vents
Helium, used in nuclear, medical and, yes, party industries, has become scarce, but new research has revealed a possible way to pinpoint fresh sources
New lab results show how collisions between comets and planets can make the molecules that are the essential building blocks of life.
A startup company says it is expanding the language of DNA to create new tools for drug discovery.
If scientists can convince people to use the app, they hope it will help them solve a cosmic mystery. This story originally aired on March 27, 2015 on All Things Considered.