MacMillan Publishers
Hard Science

Putting Light in a Box: Haroche and His Nobel Prize Winning Idea

Photon manipulation may be the key to a variety of future tech.

2012 Nobel laureate and physicist Serge Haroche has explained how his unique experiments of boxing photons open up a new world of applications for quantum systems.

The normally very elusive and fragile photon was trapped by Haroche’s team in a box made from copper with niobium mirror surface, keeping the photons moving without easily breaking down. The enclosed space where the photon was trapped created a microwave photon field. This allowed for a closer observation of the photon’s behavior by passing atoms through the field.

As Haroche mentions in the video, photon manipulation is currently the subject of several research projects — from communication systems, gene editing, space researchrobotics, and computing. Understanding how light behaves goes a long way in pushing development in these fields forward.

The significance of Haroche’s findings is not limited to just photons, of course. His method is a contribution to the ever-evolving attempts at controlling quantum systems.

“Most important applications of quantum physics have come in the past from the serendipitous convergence of disparate blue sky advances made by scientists who would never have predicted what their results were going to lead to. I guess the same will happen with the control of single quantum particles.”

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