Scientists discover a new property of Light based on Angular Momentum

May 23, 2016 16:26 IST

Scientists in a breakthrough discovery in May 2016 discovered a new property of light that can alter our basic understanding of fundamental nature of light like the way light behaves and how it is useful.

The discovery was made by researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics and CRANN Institute.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

The discovery was made while passing light through crystals. During this process scientists spotted this unexpected new property of light, which is based on the concept called 'angular momentum'.

Angular momentum measures how much a beam of light is rotating and physicists have always thought that in all forms of light the angular momentum would be a multiple of Planck’s constant, the physical constant that sets the scale of quantum effects.

What is the new property of light discovered?

As against this, scientists discovered angular momentum behaves in very different way. They found that each photon (a particle of visible light) can have half-integer values of angular momentum. In other words, angular momentum of each photon takes only half of this value.

It is this property which causes a beam of light to be confined to fewer than three dimensions.

How the discovery is significant?

The discovery will have real impacts for the study of light waves in areas such as secure optical communication opening up possibility for faster internet connections.

It would enable strange new possibilities, including particles whose quantum numbers were fractions of those expected.

The discovery shows, for the first time that the speculations on how quantum mechanics works for particles that are free to move in only two of the three dimensions of space, can be realised with light.

How the discovery was made?

The team used an effect discovered in the same institution almost 200 years earlier. In the 1830s, mathematician William Rowan Hamilton and physicist Humphrey Lloyd found that, upon passing through certain crystals, a ray of light became a hollow cylinder.

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