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Scientists Trap Light In Nano-Soup 110

Posted by kdawson
from the confusing-the-photons dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Physicists at the Bhavnagar University in Gujarat, India have trapped light in a nano-soup concoction. The chance discovery could pave the way for lab-on-a-chip devices for processing optical information. As of now there is no theoretical explanation for why the fluid has the effects it does on laser light."
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Scientists Trap Light In Nano-Soup

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's a dark sucker, and therefore abhors light.
    • For them to trap sound in a bucket.
  • the message (Score:4, Funny)

    by mseidl (828824) * on Thursday December 13, 2007 @12:56PM (#21685145) Homepage
    Peter: "Hey Brian, there is a message in my Nano-Soup, it says 'oooooooooooooooo'"

    Brian: "Thats not Nano-Soup, its your Cheerios."
  • Waiter (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Waiter, what is this light doing in my nano-soup?

    It looks like the backstroke, sir.

    Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.
  • cream-of-laser soup?
  • Nano chicken soup for the soul...
    • by db32 (862117)
      Chicken Nano-Soup for the Soul I think would have probably been better. Lines up a bit more with the normal title and the story. You fail at funny.
  • Excuse me, waiter. There's a light beam in my nano soup!

  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @12:59PM (#21685211) Homepage Journal
    Nano-soup for you!
  • My... (Score:3, Funny)

    by larpon (974081) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:00PM (#21685215)
    potato soup does the same... nothing to see here move along
  • FRIST SOPU WITH LIGH TIN I!
  • Apologize for the rotten LOTR reference, but apart from applications to electronic this could make a really could mass light storage device. "Take this crystal with you into the (forest, cave, night, basement) and flip the switch and it will turn from darkness to light!" Sounds hocus-pocus, but cool nonetheless! Then you just charge it by leaving it in light (artificial or sunlight) and you've got another use out of it.
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:07PM (#21685345)
      Probably not: you need to keep a magnetic field of an exact strength around it to hold the light. So you still need batteries or some such to maintain the field. (You'd want an atrificial field so you can choose the wavelengths of light to capture, and because it is easier to remove uniformly.)

      There is probably also a maximum amount of energy you can store per unit volume, though I'd guess they don't have that worked out yet.
      • There is probably also a maximum amount of energy you can store per unit volume, though I'd guess they don't have that worked out yet.
        If you can input more energy than is lost over time then you could conceivable build up any amount of energy until... what happens? The iron spheres melt from heat? A hole opens in the time-space continuum and the Enterprise C comes through? What?

        Some physicist please tell us what happens.
        • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Thursday December 13, 2007 @03:06PM (#21687083) Journal
          In this case, the only way they're catching the light is effectively locking it up in a jar. If they open the jar to try and put more in, they lose the light they already captured.

          Assuming they do find some way of adding more photons without losing what they've already got, the two options are:

          1) The container fills up.
          2) The container breaks.

          Either way, nothing catastrophic would occur, unless they managed to contain a lot more energy. Just a flash of light. You can see from the photos in tfa, that the photons don't exhibit the same pattern that they did when the laser was firing (indicating some internal diffraction), so there wouldn't be a danger of having the equivalent of a more powerful laser shooting out in the same direction as the original beam. Then comes thermodynamics...It unlikely that they'd be able to contain energy in excess of the energy they're putting into containment (understatement), and entropy usually makes it so you have to spend a lot more energy, just to break even.

          • by fbartho (840012)
            1. Make a ton of these chambers.
            2. Fill them sequentially with a high-powered laser.
            3. Unleash them simultaneously with a high-powered x N laser burst at the target (where N = number of chambers).
            4. ???
            5. Profit(able weapon)
            6. Sell consumer version of weapon for say welding based on normal hand lasers and long charge times.
            7. Profit(even more)
            • 1. Make a ton of these chambers. 1b. Build an array of bombpumped x-ray lasers. 2. Fill them sequentially with array of bomb pumped x-ray lasers. 3. Threaten to unleash them simultaneously with a high-powered x N laser burst at the target (where N = number of chambers where E = Mass of bomb * Speed of light^2). 4. Extort govenments of the world to not melt the sun. 5. Profit(able weapon) 6. Buy Sharks with consumer version on head.
          • "can see from the photos in tfa, that the photons don't exhibit the same pattern that they did when the laser was firing (indicating some internal diffraction), so there wouldn't be a danger of having the equivalent of a more powerful laser shooting out in the same direction as the original beam." brownian motion, it's trapped in a liquid. I doubt highly that you would actully get much of a laser beam out of it under any circumstance, more of a omni-directional flashlight. Now if they can use that extern
        • by pugugly (152978)
          Personally, I'm holding out for Orion Slave girls.

          Or even Harry Mudd and enough Venus Drug I can contaminate the Water Supply with it.

          "I wish they all could be green or-i-on Giiiirrrrllllss . . . ." -- How has that not been filked yet? Tom, I'm so disappointed in you!

          Pug
        • by DeadChobi (740395)
          I'm only an undergraduate, but I made a post [slashdot.org] further down discussing briefly what I think might be happening. But basically, if my idea is correct then there is a maximum amount of light energy which may be stored in this nanofluid because there are a finite number of electrons in appropriate states for this transition to occur.
    • by eln (21727) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:09PM (#21685383) Homepage
      This will do great things for the National Strategic Light Reserve, which is a vital part of our national security initiatives. Specifically, it exists to protect the nation in the event the sun burns out. Up until now, we've been storing light using a series of 100 watt bulbs and mirrors, but there has always been doubt as to what would happen to our light reserves in the event of a power outage. Perhaps this technology will help us solve that issue.
      • by ShakaUVM (157947)
        Best of all, we can stop Conserving light, and eliminate Daylight Savings once and for all!
    • Then you just charge it by leaving it in light (artificial or sunlight) and you've got another use out of it.
      Sounds familiar [wikipedia.org]...
    • The unusual fluid, they say, works at room temperature, holds photons for far longer than other systems, and can also be tuned with a magnet to store any wavelength of visible light

      That is interesting. I wonder if they could extend it to trap other EM frequencies. It would make an interesting cloaking technology in my mind. Can absorb and possibly redirect radar, light, microwaves. It would seem to make decent shielding from x-rays in medical labs, who knows. I wish it said how much energy the magnetic fields took to sustain, and how many photons they can capture per area. If this turns out to be legit...

  • by GammaKitsune (826576) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:03PM (#21685279)
    Why do they claim that "As of now there is no theoretical explanation for why the fluid has the effects it does on laser light" when there's clearly a theory about why this happens right in TFA? Or is there some other definition used in the Scientific community for a "theoretical explanation" that I'm not aware of?
    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:12PM (#21685407)

      Why do they claim that "As of now there is no theoretical explanation for why the fluid has the effects it does on laser light" when there's clearly a theory about why this happens right in TFA? Or is there some other definition used in the Scientific community for a "theoretical explanation" that I'm not aware of?
      Yes: One where the math has been shown to work.

      Currently they have ideas, but haven't proven the math. If the math can't be made to work, either the underlying theory is wrong, or something else is happening.
    • by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:31PM (#21685663) Journal
      From TFA: "but the researchers believe that"

      It's good to remember that "theory" and "hypothesis" are quite distinct in scientific circles. In science, a belief is not a theory. A belief is either a hypothesis that can be tested or an article of faith. Since these are research scientists and this has no clear ties to any religion I can see, I'm going to bet they'll want their hypothesis tested.

      They'll want the experiment set up specifically with storage of the light in mind, since this was a surprise discovery this time. Then they'll want some way to prove, mathematically or empirically (preferably both) that the light is getting trapped consistently and how that's being done.

      Then, they'll want others to repeat the experiment in other labs from their write-up and get consistent results.

      Then, when scientists can use the explanation for the light getting trapped as a portion of further work and it become useful to just assume the explanation is true and move on to work based on it... then it's a theory.

      Or... that's how I'd think of the words "hypothesis" and "theory" from my interested lay understanding of research science. In short, a hypothesis is an idea about something happening under certain circumstances or why something happens in those circumstances that has not been properly vetted by experiments and mathematics. A hypothesis can be right or wrong, and noone knows until it is tested. A theory is a hypothesis that has been proven reasonably correct by multiple individual teams and can be used as a basis for further work. A theory is sometimes wrong in part, like Newtonian mechanics, but should offer a good enough model to make more discoveries.

      In even shorter terms, a scientist says "theoretically" only if the basis for the belief is tested and accepted. Otherwise, it's "hypothetically".
      • Your understanding is correct, for an ideal scientist. Real scientists are much more sloppy with the terms. I've even heard a few suggest that they're interchangeable.
        • I'm a computer scientist and I hadn't heard that distinction til now, but it does make sense, and google's define confirms it! I'd hypothesise that a lot of people consider them interchangeable.
          • by bynary (827120)
            The parent said "scientist" not "code-monkey".
            • by Plutonite (999141)
              This is how flame wars begin. Can I just say something about your mom and be done with it?

              PS: You were joking, but artificial intelligence, CS theory and other mathematically-based fields are very much scientific in nature and it is a little harsh to dismiss decades of scientific work on these matters. Hypotheses and theories do exist in mathematics, and CS is fancy mathematics.
              • by bynary (827120)
                You're right, I was joking. Also, I have a degree in CS (on /.? What are the odds?).
            • That's DOCTOR "code-monkey" to you! >:(



              Not really though.
        • "Real scientists are much more sloppy with the terms. I've even heard a few suggest that they're interchangeable."

          Maybe it's because *they are* one is simply a more refined version of the other. The hypothesis is the seed, the seed doesn't go away if it is found to be valid.

          There are no lies, only mis-shapen truths.
      • From TFA: "but the researchers believe that"

        Or, from the Wikipedia entry:
        "it is alleged that many researchers have been shown to speculate that"

      • It's even mroe nuanced than that. Scientists rarely ever completely redo another's experiment, though it does happen, and in this case likely will. Often when you look at one lab's results, you can see that their results predict that other things should be true. In the case of a mathematical explanation for this phenomenon, the math will also predict that other phenonmenon should also happen. Experiments will be designed to test those predictions. If they work out, then there's more evidence that the e
        • I'm guessing someone might redo this one, even the same team, with different instrumentation and looking specifically for this behavior and more information about it. It wouldn't be entirely the same experiment, since this complete trapping of the light apparently was not the behavior they intended to see.
    • by djupedal (584558)
      'Why do they claim "As of now there is no theoretical explanation for why the fluid has the effects it does on laser light."?'

      Because the 'effect' is a false positive - wait for the other shoe to drop where they explain their mistake...

      The 'claim' is a _dis_claim(er) - big as can be.
  • by Hanners1979 (959741) on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:04PM (#21685281) Homepage
    Let's hope they're currently developing nano-croutons.
    • Dont forget the nano-noodles. I hope to hear someone say nano-noodles in a mass storage symposium one day.

      We have achieved this by arranging the nano-noodles into a neural network of O(N) efficiency, fibrillating negatively to the natural nyquist sampling frequency of these engtangled nanotubes.
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@NosPam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 13, 2007 @01:06PM (#21685335)
    A rigorous theoretical explanation is yet to come, but the researchers believe that the spheres are aligned by the magnetic field and form microcavities - filled by the ferrofluid - in which the photons get trapped, resonating back and forth

    I know they haven't published an explanation on this yet, but does anyone know what kind of power this sort of process takes? Power consumption would obviously be germane to computing using photons, which the article discusses. Also, what effect does the stasis have on the photon?
    • What is the response speed of the system, how instantaneous is the light release? It could open up a whole new world of optical TDM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-division_multiplexing [wikipedia.org] I am just imagining someone sighing, walking over to the server room and whacking the multiplexer to excite the soup and restore previously blocked comms... :-D Ciao
      • Yeah, and when the system crashes you've got to reboot it with a flashlight.
        Seriously though, this is cool stuff, but probably at the absolute minimum 10 years from seeing mass market application.
    • From the hypothesis in the article, that the varying magnetic strengths result in different size cavities to capture different wavelengths, I would guess very little power would be needed. On a chip you would only need to develop whatever gauss needed in a very small area.

      I believe the author of the article is confused. A ferrofluid is a suspension of very small magnetic particles. To keep the particles from clumping, they are coated with a asymmetrical molecule, one side of which will stick to the particl

  • Won't anybody think of the photons!
  • Talk about Alpha Bits, literally.

  • Waiter, there's a photon in my nano-soup.
  • Hope you can use something less flammable than that as the suspension medium. It could give overclocking a whole new, exciting angle.
  • I turned on my flash light the other day, and instead of a nice round beam on the wall I saw this message:

    "HELP! I AM TRAPPED IN A NANO SOUP FACTORY"
  • It is fantastic,' said Hema Ramachandran, who heads the photonics unit at the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore
    I love their noodles!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Soup Soup
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    Spicy carrot and corriander
    Chilli chowder
    Crouton Crouton
    Crunch friends in a liquid broth
    I am gespatchio Oh!
    I am a summer soup Mmmm!
    Miso Miso
    Fighting in the dojo
    Miso Miso
    Oriental Prince in the land of soup

    errr
    3 Profit.
    In the USA SHARKS WITH FRIGGIN' HOT GRITS DOWN PANTS do YOU!!!

    or something.
  • I wonder if storing photons should be actually seen as storing their energy (say, as that of an electron in an atom), rather than "storing" the photons themselves, as particles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ajdecon (233641)

      I wonder if storing photons should be actually seen as storing their energy (say, as that of an electron in an atom), rather than "storing" the photons themselves, as particles.

      It's not just the energy. If I understand the article properly, and it works like other photon-storage schemes, the phase, polarization, etc. of the photons are also preserved, so that the light which is released is equivalent to the original light. It's possible there could be some frequency-changing effects, as in non-linear opt

    • That's the 64,000 question. Another explaination, is that the initial laser aligns the particles, and when they turn the magnetic field off, the nano-soup creates new photons. i.e. the energy output comes from the original magnetic field, not the input laser.

      If the actual photons are being stored, then it should be possible to use a femto-second laser to send a pulse into the soup, then by timing the turn-off right, get the photons to exit either in the forward direction or in reverse.
      • by smaddox (928261)
        That seems like a good experiment to try. You should contact them and tell them about it. It could save them a lot of time and money.

        If it does turn out to just be storing energy, it would be interesting to see why it is converted back into photons of the same wavelength when the field is turned off.

        On the other hand, if it is just refracting the light, I could imaging this being used to create a sort of DRAM for photons. The reason I say DRAM is because I imagine it would have to be refreshed in order to r
      • by DeadChobi (740395)
        I wonder if this effect has anything to do with the hyperfine structure exhibited by electron orbitals in atoms. In a magnetic field, the energies of spin-up and spin-down electrons will diverge slightly, revealing hyperfine band structure.

        In an atom there are also forbidden energy transitions and metastable states. Maybe in the presence of a magnetic field the hyperfine structure of these nanoparticles causes new metastable states to arise in the structure of the molecule. Then, light of a particular frequ
  • Light can't even escape!
  • > As of now there is no theoretical explanation for why the fluid has the effects it does on laser light.

    God never thought that far ahead?
  • ... I'll have the light nano-soup with the eggless nanoodles.
  • ...would I need to be swimming in if I piss of Boeing and their 12,000lb Chemical Laser?! http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/199623173/article.pl [slashdot.org]
  • is put into a whole new context.
  • Try trapping a politician into telling the truth. Now that takes skill.
  • I'll accept that you can transfer information using photons. However, using this technology, magnetic fields are still required to store the photons. Hypothetically, if a computer was build using this nano-soup, then it would only be a hybrid-photon computer. Any ideas on what a photon computer buys you (technologically speaking). In copper wire, light travels slower than the speed of light in a vacuum (about 2/3c). But presumably the magnetic fields are created using standard electrical principles (li
  • where they invented Raman Noodles . . . "The Raman Research Institute".

    And now it's light trapping nano-soup!

    (Of course it will be sold in dehydrated form, so you have to add water and apply your own magnetic field before it's ready.)
  • Did anyone else look at the article's image and think of the time vortex and opening scene from Doctor Who?
  • Can't wait..

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