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Laser links segue to chemical bonds

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4:50pm, November 5, 2002

From Long Beach, Calif., at a meeting of the American Physical Society

The light touch of a laser beam can shackle microscopic particles together to make an unusual form of matter. Now, a team of Tennessee researchers finds that this optical binding can set the stage for a chemical encore.

In the late 1980s, scientists at the Rowland Institute for Science and Harvard University, both in Cambridge, Mass., used lasers to create neat arrays of micrometer-size polystyrene beads held together, in part, by photon exchanges. Their new form of matter made headlines but inspired few further studies (SN: 9/30/89, p. 212; 8/18/90, p. 101).

More than a decade later, Andrey Zavalin and Don O. Henderson of Fisk University in Nashville have fabricated so-called optical matter with the hope of eventually using it to create nanometer-scale structures and materials.

In one facet of their vision, the Fisk scientists would harness optically bound arrangements of partic

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