Researchers have successfully forced electromagnetic (EM) waves that usually pass right through each other to collide head-on by manipulating time, made possible with the unique properties of metamaterials.
Inspired by the concept of using macro-scale waves like tsunamis or earthquakes to cancel each other out, the manipulation of time interfaces to cause these photons to collide instead of pass through each other could open up a wide range of engineering applications, including advances in telecommunications, optical computing, and even energy harvesting.
Is Using One Wave to Cancel Another Wave Possible?
Engineers studying the devastating effects of wave-driven catastrophes like tsunamis and earthquakes have often postulated the idea of using a counter-wave to stop them in their tracks. Unfortunately, various laws of physics have proven the idea impractical, if not downright impossible. Still, researchers studying wave interactions at the atomic and sub-atomic scale wondered if the idea might be possible in the quantum universe.
“While such an outcome (stopping a tsunami) is impossible in conventional wave physics, we knew it was possible in principle with a temporal metamaterial,” said Emanuele Galiffi, a postdoctoral fellow at Advanced Science Research Center at the CUNY Graduate Center (CUNY ASRC) and the leading author on this latest study. “Our experiment allowed us to demonstrate this concept in action for electromagnetic waves.”
Manipulating Time Proved Key to Causing First-Ever Photon Collisions
To make the historic photon collision, the CUNY ASRC team first looked back at the work they had previously published on something called time reflections.
From a purely theoretical standpoint, time reflections are exactly what they sound like. Instead of a reflection of a light wave, like seeing oneself in the mirror, or a reflection of a sound wave, like hearing an echo, a time reflection is rooted in the idea that time…