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

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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

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