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Frozen light stays fresh longer

Researchers trap beam in an ultracold cloud of atoms for 1.5 seconds

11:06am, December 18, 2009

Forget about ziplock bags. A cloud of ultracold atoms can store a beam of yellow light for 1.5 seconds. That timescale isn’t impressive for frozen peas, but it’s enough time for light to circle the Earth 10 times under normal conditions, researchers led by Lene Hau of Harvard University report.

This ability to store light may lead to more efficient ways to communicate, as well as new ways to explore quantum mechanical properties such as entanglement.

The new study is “a beautiful demonstration,” says Irina Novikova, a physicist at the College of William & Mary in Williams

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