News Stories

Light Can Be Liquid

Scientists have figured out how to change light into aliquid that forms drops and splashes off surfaces just likewater. Humberto Michinel at the University of Vigo in Italysays it would be ideal for optical computing, wheremicrochips sent light through optical circuits in order toprocess data.

The researchers made the transformation by thinking of lightas a gas, since all gases can be made to condense into aliquid. Researcher Jose Ramon, of the University of Santiagode Compostela in Spain, realized that a high-energy laserbeam could be concentrated into a tight column that behaveslike a liquid. This kind of light has a surface tension onthe outside of the light beam that makes it stretchy on theoutside. It shatters into smaller drops when it bounces offa surface, just like a liquid.

"?It's a clever idea, but I'm not sure it's really going tochange things," says Demetrios Christodoulides at LehighUniversity in Pennsylvania, who is competing with theEuropean team to find new ways to manipulate light. Hethinks the material used to contain the light beam wouldinteract so strongly with it that the liquid drops would beabsorbed before they went anywhere.

But if the researchers can make really make liquid light,they could create an optical computer. The speed ofsilicon-based processors is limited by the rate at whichelectrons move around the circuits. An optical computerbased on photons would be much faster, but it's hard tobounce light around without the beam spreading out andcausing information to disappear. "Liquid drops are optimalcandidates to be information bits," says Michinel.

Those of us who remain confused about how computers could bemade with liquid light are still amazed that light can beturned into liquid, since our high school science told usthat light absolutely could not be changed in any way. We?reliving in a miraculous new world.

There were technological miracles performed in the past aswell, but we?ve lost all knowledge of them. Learn more aboutthis from Andrew Collins, a researcher who digs deep intohistory, in his books ?From the Ashes of Angels? and ?TheGods of Eden?,click here.

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