Harvard University researchers have developed a metamaterial that allows any light passing through it to go infinitely fast. The on-chip metamaterial is made by embedding silicon pillars in polymer wrapped in gold film. The resulting product is found to exhibit a refractive index of zero. The material is touted as an evolution of fiber optics and could lead to photonic based telecommunications over modern electronic based telecommunications.
The Science Behind It
The material's refractive index affects light’s “phase velocity,” which is how much a wavelength either condenses or elongates as it passes through matter. Phase velocity is another way by which the speed of light is measured. While light still passes the metamaterial at 299,792,458 m/s, its phase velocity is altered.
When this wavelength of light passes through Harvard’s new metamaterial, the crests and troughs of the wavelength are stretched infinitely, creating a flat line, in which case oscillations occur as a factor of time and not space. This allows researchers to manipulate light at the nanoscale without the risk of energy loss.