There’s nothing faster than the speed of light, yet physicists have been able to slow it down.
A Scottish research team, has managed to slow down the speed of light, in a free environment. Physicists considers the speed of light a constant value, of 299.792.458 metres per second, menaing around 300.000 kilometres per second, in a free environment. The study has been conducted by the researchers from the Glasgow and Heriot-Watt Univeristies.
Scientists have sent photons, individual particles of light, trough a special mask, which has changed their shape and has slowed down the speed of the particles. The photons continued to travel at a diminished speed, even after they returned to the free environment. This experiment could totally change science’s approach on light.
When hitting certain materials, like glass or water, light moves much slower, until it breaks trough and hits back into a free environment, at least this is what researchers observed.
Two years ago, physicists have started a process, as they wished to find out if they could slow down the speed of light and maintain it that way. Professors Jacquiline Romero, Daniel Giovannini and their research team, have created in the science lab from the University of Glasgow, a system that resembles a running track for the individual light particles, photons. Researchers, have tested the photons speed, by creating groups of two, one had been left in its natural state and the other one had been put, trough a special mask. After going trough the mask, the photons would be launched in some sort of race on a distance of one metre. The mask, has forced the photon to change its shape and to travel with a speed lower than the one of light. After that, researchers compared the amount of time the two photons needed to finish the race, explained professor Romero.
If both photons had traveled with the speed of light, the experiment would have turned out to be a complete failure, but the modified photon made the finish line on second position.
The time difference between the two particles of light, wasn’t big at all, but it has proved that, not only the photon had been slowed down by the mask, but it maintained its slower speed even after returning to the free environment.
The mask designed to decrease the speed of light particles, was a device made out of liquid crystals, kept under control by a computer. The physical appearance of the mask, resembled the darts panel, and inflicted on light a certain pattern, and precisely that pattern was the cause of the slowing down process, explained researchers.
This scientific break trough could have also practical uses. Light is used in scientific studies, for example, to determine the precise distance between Earth and the Moon, but for the moment the discovery would remain as a theory.
Image Source: Astrobio Society