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Physicists find new ways to manipulate light, paving way for quantum tech

"Understanding how we can manipulate light in photonic circuits will help to unlock a whole host of new technologies," scientist Pascal Del'Haye said.

By
Brooks Hays
While experimenting with light stored in optical ring resonators, scientists discovered new ways to manipulate light. Photo by National Physical Laboratory
While experimenting with light stored in optical ring resonators, scientists discovered new ways to manipulate light. Photo by National Physical Laboratory

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Scientists at Britain's National Physical Laboratory in London have developed new techniques for manipulating light.

The research, detailed in the journal Physical Review Letters, could pave the way for new quantum technologies and telecommunication systems.

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While experimenting with an optical ring resonator, a small device capable of storing large amounts of high-intensity light, physicists discovered unusual new optical properties.

The wavelengths of light stored in an an optical ring resonator oscillate around the ring. While studying the resonating light, scientists discovered two new types of spontaneous symmetry breaking.

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Under normal optical conditions, when time is reversed, in theory, light travels backwards toward its origin. The theoretical phenomenon is called time reversal symmetry. This symmetry is broken when high intensity light is stored in an optical ring resonator.

"When seeding the ring resonator with short pulses, the circulating pulses within the resonator will either arrive before or after the seed pulse but never at the same time," project scientist Francois Copie said in a news release.

Copie and his colleagues think they could use the break in symmetry to manipulate late in new ways. Optical pulses could be combined and rearranged in ways advantageous to faster, more efficient telecommunication networks.

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During their experiments, scientists also found light in ring resonators can also spontaneously change its polarization. In future tests, scientists hope to utilize the resonator-specific property to manipulate light traveling through optical sensors and quantum technologies.

"Optics have become an important part of our telecoms networks and computing systems," said senior research scientist Pascal Del'Haye. "Understanding how we can manipulate light in photonic circuits will help to unlock a whole host of new technologies, including better sensors and new quantum capabilities, which will become ever more important in our everyday lives."

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