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Stopping Light in Its Tracks

Using lasers and magnetic fields, scientists have set a new record – stopping and storing light inside a crystal for a full sixty seconds. The technique, called electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) involves firing a control laser at a cryogenically cooled opaque crystal, triggering a quantum reaction that turns it transparent. A second light source is then beamed into the transparent crystal. When the control laser is turned off, the crystal reverts back to its opaque state, trapping the second light inside.

The energy from the trapped photons excites atoms within the crystal, causing them to spin. This spin can be maintained for about a minute and can be released as photons by turning the control laser back on.

The breakthrough could be pivotal in ultimately developing quantum computer networks with secure optical memory capabilities.

For information: Georg Heinze, Technical University Darmstadt, Institute of Applied Optics, Building S2/07 Room 7, Hochschulstrasse 6, D-64289 Darmstadt, Germany; phone: +49-6151-166553; fax: +49-6151-164123; email:; Web site:    

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