Science News

Curated by RSF Research Staff

“Sonic Boom” Wakes in Spacetime from Light

A trailing "cone" of photonic energy was recorded for the first time as a pulse of laser light was recorded traveling between two plates made of a mixture of silicon rubber and aluminum oxide powder.

This cone appears the same way a pressure cone forms when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier, except that instead of molecular pressure, this cone is formed of a differential in the density of matter between the area where the laser light was traveling, and the "slower" speed of light (electromagnetic charge) traveling through the plates on either side.

The researchers out of Washington University's Optical Imaging Laboratory call this a "photonic Mach cone."


To capture video of these elusive light-scattering events, the researchers developed a "streak camera" that could capture images at speeds of 100 billion frames per second in a single exposure. This new camera captured three different views of the phenomenon: one that acquired a direct image of the scene, and two that recorded temporal information of the events so that the scientists could reconstruct what happened frame by frame.

This represents a breakthrough in high-speed imaging, as well as capturing the phenomenon of light traveling at different speeds through different media. The research team is hoping to apply this knowledge to high-speed imaging of electromagnetic pulses in the brain.

Read the full research paper on Science Advances

Adam Apollo, Faculty
Resonance Academy

Sharing is caring - please share this with your friends:

Complete this form and click the button below to subscribe to our Science News Digest

No SPAM. Ever. That’s a promise.