(ORDO NEWS) — Typically, for optical mirrors , polished metal surfaces or coated glass are used, which give better quality with less weight. But physicists from the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Munich have shown a mirror that consists of one structured layer of atoms.
The development is unique – it is one of the first experiments in a new field of research of sub wavelengths of quantum optics with ordered particles. Details are published in the journal Nature.
The operation of the new optical mirror is based on two parameters: the ordering of atoms and the distance between subwavelength frequencies. They suppress diffuse light scattering and combine reflections into a directional and steady beam. Due to the relatively close and discrete distance between atoms, a photon can bounce off particles more than once before being reflected. Together, the effects produce a strong reflection that can be seen with the naked eye.
It is the lightest and thinnest mirror in the world: it is only a few tens of nanometers thick, which is a thousand times thinner than a hair, and only seven micrometers in diameter. The development is unlikely to be used for commercial purposes in the near future – the mirror cannot yet be made large enough. In addition, the apparatus in which it was created is huge: it contains more than a thousand optical elements, and its weight is two tons.
However, the material has great potential for science. “The results are very interesting to us. On the one hand, photon-mediated correlations between atoms, which play a vital role in our system, are usually ignored in traditional theories of quantum optics. On the other hand, ordered arrays of atoms obtained by loading ultracold particles into optical lattices have been mainly used to study quantum modeling of condensed matter. But they turned out to be a powerful platform for the study of new quantum-optical phenomena,” explains Jun Rui, one of the authors of the article.
Further research could deepen the understanding of quantum theories of the interaction of light and matter, as well as the physics of many bodies with optical photons, scientists say. They also make it possible to create more efficient quantum devices.
“For example, the work provides a fascinating new approach to quantum optomechanics, a growing field that explores the quantum nature of light through mechanical means. It can also help create better quantum memory or a quantum switchable optical mirror, adds co-author David Wei. “Both directions are interesting and would be significant advances towards the possibility of quantum information transfer.”
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