BBC SCHOOLS – Science Topics: LIGHT ELECTRONS AND THE ATOM (TX 10.1.86)
Scientists have developed the lightest optical mirror, consisting of just one structured layer of several hundred identical atoms.
As mirrors, polished metal surfaces or glass with a special coating are usually used to improve their reflection characteristics.. but physicists from the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics have demonstrated for the first time that a similar result can be achieved using a layer of structured atoms located in a two-dimensional array of laser beams.
The new mirror is only a few tens of nanometers thick and about seven microns in diameter. Although a person is not able to see it with the naked eye, he could notice the reflection he creates..
This efficiency is achieved due to the fact that the mirror has a specific structure that suppresses diffuse light scattering and combines the reflection into a stable unidirectional beam. In addition, due to the close and discrete distance between atoms, incoming photons can be reflected from them several times before escaping, which further enhances the outgoing flux..
Nevertheless, such a mirror is unlikely to once begin to be used in everyday life, since during the experiment it was created inside a complex installation weighing about two tons. However, the study can help in the development of more advanced quantum computers, the study of quantum-optical phenomena and checks theories of the interaction of light with matter.
Recall that scientists from MIPT recently created quantum optical sensor for accurate measurement of physical quantities.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics