Physicists have recently made a very interesting discovery of a new form of light that goes against all the existing rules of angular momentum. This discovery will indeed be able to shake the human understanding of electromagnetic radiation and hence more secure and faster optical communication. Light is one of the most well studied topics in the world with plenty of knowledge to refer from. Many might be able to assume the world might know it all when it comes to light.
Scientists last year were able to discover a fundamental new property of light, Irish scientists decided to take it to another level and show that light is indeed able to take unexpected new forms. Light is measured in many ways and one of them is through angular momentum. This is the constant quantity that is used to measure how much light is rotating. The world has always assumed that all forms of light in regards to angular momentum could be in the form of whole numbers / integer multiples of Planks Constant. Planck’s constant is a physical constant that is used to set the scale of quantum effects. The team of researchers that was led by Trinity College in Dublin has now been able to demonstrate the existence of the new form of light and the angular momentum is only half of its actual value. Paul Eastham the lead researcher says that the exciting thing about the finding is the fact that this fundamental property of light that was previously assumed to be fixed can be changed.
Kyle Ballantine one of the researchers explains all these: A beam of light is known to have characteristics in terms of color/wavelength and an unfamiliar quantity that is called angular momentum. Angular momentum is used to measure how much something is actually rotating. A beam light is generally assumed to be traveling in a straight line, but can also rotate on its own axis. Interesting indeed.
For instance, when you look at the mirror in the morning, and the light from the mirror hits your eye, the photons in your eyes twist a little. This can be understood by a normal person, but physicists are able to understand all these. What physicists didn’t previously know is that light possesses able to exist and an angular momentum that isn’t a whole number. To have a simple understanding of these, the team of researchers decided to have light passed through crystals in order to create beams of light that are twisted in nature and hence screw like structure. This was intended to try and discover new characteristics of light that might be able to improve optical communications. The beam was then analyzed within the theory of quantum mechanics. But then it showed that the angular momentum would be a half number something that they were not expecting to find. An experiment was carried out to test the prediction.
A device was made that was to measure the flow of angular momentum within the light beam and also the vibration in this flow that had been caused by quantum effects. Normally any quantum variations are supposed to change the angular momentum in whole numbers based on the understanding of the physics. The experiment showed a small shift of about one half of the Planks Constant, in the angular momentum of all the photons. In 1980 theoretical physicists had predicted that quantum mechanics had the capability to enable the possible existence of particles that their quantum numbers were fractions of those expected. These new findings confirm all these and also prove the existence of this new form of light. The study is yet to validated by a new set of researchers to make sure the light actually exists. The results of the study are published in the Science Advances.