Taming light: Scientists create white light pulses

Taming light: Scientists create white light pulses

A team at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and LMU Munich in Germany says that it's able to control the field of the ligh pulses on a time scale shorter than an optical oscillation.

An expedition through the fast-paced microscopic world of atoms reveals electrons that spin at enormous speeds and the gigantic forces that act on them. Monitoring the ultrafast motion of the electrons requires ultrashort flashes of light. However, in order to control them, the structure of these light flashes, or light pulses, needs to be tamed as well.

This type of control over light pulses has now been achieved, for the first time, by a team of physicists led by Dr Eleftherios Goulielmakis and Professor Ferenc Krausz.

Taking advantage of the fact that light possesses both particle-like and wave-like properties, they have sculpted fine features into the waveform of the pulses of white light.

Moreover, the researchers were able to make their pulses shorter than a complete light oscillation, thereby creating isolated sub-optical-cycle flashes of light.

Not only will these novel tools allow for the precise control of electron motion in the fundamental building blocks of matter, they will also further our understanding of atomic processes and permit more precise timing of electronic processes in molecules and atoms.

The physicists have created these light pulses and sent them into a newly developed "light field synthesiser" analogous to the sound synthesizers used by many musicians.

"We are progressively increasing our understanding of the principles in the microcosm and learning how to control it," said Ferenc Krausz, a team member.

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