Scientists are ready to create matter entirely from light, using already available technology to complete a quest 80 years in the making.
In Imperial’s Blackett Physics Laboratory, three physicists worked out a relatively simple way to physically prove a theory first devised by scientists Breit and Wheeler in 1934.
They planned to recreate the most vital 100 seconds of the universe expected in gamma-ray bursts also. The gamma-ray burst was the most powerful explosions in the cosmos and one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in physics.
The duo suggested turning light into matter can be done by banging together only two particles of light (photons), to create an electron and positron.
The concept for a new kind of photon-photon collider follows up on an 80-year-old theoretical claim — and there’s a chance that the concept could soon be turned into reality with existing technology.
The concept that was laid out in the latest issue of Nature Photonics proved Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2, that implies that mass can get converted into energy and vice versa. The six other concepts that involves interaction of matter and light includes Dirac’s 1930 theory on the annihilation of electrons and positrons and Einstein’s 1905 theory on the photoelectric effect, and are all associated with Nobel Prize-winning research.
Professor Steve Rose from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London said: “Despite all physicists accepting the theory to be true, when Breit and Wheeler first proposed the theory, they said that they never expected it be shown in the laboratory. Today, nearly 80 years later, we prove them wrong. What was so surprising to us was the discovery of how we can create matter directly from light using the technology that we have today in the UK. As we are theorists we are now talking to others who can use our ideas to undertake this landmark experiment.”
The experiment involved two steps. First, the electrons would be speed up to just below the speed of light by the help of high intensity laser and then will be fired into a slab of gold to create a beam of photons a billion times more energetic than visible light.
The next stage of the experiment involves a tiny gold can called a hohlraum that was also used for laser fusion experiments such as the National Ignition Facility in California. Scientists would fire a high-energy laser at the inner surface of this gold can, to create a thermal radiation field, generating light similar to the light emitted by stars.
The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science, and theAtomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), and was carried out in collaboration with Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik.