Turning at Top Speed: Scientists Observe a New Kind of Light Emission

New Kind of Light Emission

Scientists observe a new kind of light emission when electrons in topological insulators abruptly reverse their direction of motion. Credit: © Brad Baxley (parttowhole.com)

Scientists observe a new kind of light emission when electrons in topological insulators abruptly reverse their direction of motion. The new findings are reported in the journal “Nature.”

To change the direction of motion of a massive object, such as a car, it has to be slowed down and brought to a complete standstill first. Even the tiniest charge carriers in the universe, the electrons, follow this rule. For future ultrafast electronic components, however, it would be helpful to circumvent the electron’s inertia. Photons, the quanta of light, show how this could work. Photons do not carry mass and can thus move at the highest possible velocity, the speed of light. For a change of direction, they do not need to slow down; when they are reflected from a mirror, for instance, they abruptly change their direction without a stopover. Such behavior is highly desirable for future electronics because the direction of currents could be switched infinitely swiftly and the clock rate of processors could be massively increased. Yet, photo

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