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For years now, it had been thought that physicists knew everything there was to know about the properties of light. That might change thanks to the discovery of a new form of light that challenges our knowledge of light particles and their properties. What’s more, this new property of light could be used to usher us into an era of high speed optical communication that’s also quite secure.
A beam of light can be characterized by the following three things: its color or wavelength and the angular momentum. The first two seem obvious but the third one – angular momentum – is a indeed a little strange. Every beam of light rotates with a constant quantity and the measure of this rotation is angular momentum.
It has been long established that all forms of light have an angular momentum, that is a whole number multiple of Planck’s Constant. This incredible discovery shakes the understanding of light to its roots.
A team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin have successfully demonstrated that the angular momentum of a beam of light doesn’t always have to be a whole number multiple of the Planck’s Constant – It can be a fractional (one half) multiple of the Planck’s Constant. To make sure that it wasn’t just an error, the researchers came up with a device to measure the angular momentum of screw-like twisted light beams. The experiment confirmed that the angular momentum of these light beams was one half of the Planck’s Constant.
This discovery is indeed a major breakthrough in the world of Physics. It will not only revolutionize our understanding of light but it will also help physicists come up with methods for faster optical fiber communication.
The research has been published in Science Advances.