The new light is produced by binding photons to individual electrons and is not the sort of thing that will help you find your way to the loo in the middle of the night.
Vincenzo Giannini from the Imperial College London in the UK said that the results of this research will have a huge impact on the way we conceive light. In case we want to do it in ways which do not just involve turning on a light switch.
In 2007 boffins discovered class of materials called topological insulators, they modelled the behaviour of light as it flashed across the surface. They found that not only could the photons interact with a single electron in this material, but the result would actually combine the properties of both.
These topological insulators are a unique type of material that won’t conduct an electric current through the bulk of their structure, but will carry one along the surface. The UK physicists modelled a single nanoparticle – a tiny sphere less than 0.00001 millimetres in diameter – made from a topological insulator. This allowed them to simulate what would happen if a flash of light beamed across the nanoparticle and collided with its single electron.
Basically they could control what the light was doing and this is the key to creating a the world’s first viable quantum computer. Quantum processors are made of qubits, which can be a ‘1’, ‘0’, or both at the same time – a state known as ‘superposition’. The problem with observing superposition is that physicists have to work with supercooled molecules chilled to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, and this is expensive and difficult to set up.
But combined photon-electron could allow researchers see the behaviour at room temperature. All they have to do is actually build it in the lab.