In order to understand these new findings, it will be best to first explain a little bit about our current understand of light. Most notably ‘Planck’s constant’ and angular momentum.
‘Planck’s constant’ is a physical constant that is the quantum of action, central in quantum mechanics. In simpler words, it’s the link between the energy a photon carries and the frequency of its electromagnetic wave. Named after the physicist Max Planck, it is an important quantity in quantum physics.
The Planck constant equation is: E = HV
Now that you know a bit about Planck’s constant, we can dive into the news. A new form of light has just been discovered by physicists. What makes this new light unique is that the angular momentum of each photon only takes half of the value of Planck’s constant.
We feel as though we have a strong grasp on the properties of light, but it seems there is still a lot to learn.
Physicists announced that the new form of light is completely different from our existing rules on light and angular momentum. What they’ve found shows that light can take on new and unexpected forms, fundamentally changing our understanding of electromagnetic radiation.
“A beam of light is characterised by its colour or wavelength and a less familiar quantity known as angular momentum. Angular momentum measures how much something is rotating. For a beam of light, although traveling in a straight line, it can also be rotating around its own axis. So when light from the mirror hits your eye in the morning, every photon twists your eye a little, one way or another.” – Trinity College, Dublin Press
Before this new discovery, light’s rotation (angular momentum) was thought to always be a whole number that’s a multiple of Planck’s constant. But physicists from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland have found a form that rotates at just half of Planck’s constant.
“The topic of light has always been one of interest to physicists, while also being documented as one of the areas of physics that is best understood. This discovery is a breakthrough for the world of physics and science alike.” – Stefano Sanvito, Trinity College Researcher
The tests and data from Trinity still need to be replicated in order to confirm the findings. If the new form of light does in fact exist, it will be groundbreaking for our understanding not just of light, but the Universe. It can also lead to improvements in fiber optics, leading to safer and faster internet connections.