Controlling Quantum Tunneling With Light

Controlling Quantum Tunneling With Light

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Scientists at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge have used light to help push electrons through a classically impenetrable barrier. While quantum tunnelling is at the heart of the peculiar wave nature of particles, this is the first time that it has been controlled by light. Their research is published in the journal Science.

Particles cannot normally pass through walls, but if they are small enough quantum mechanics says that it can happen. This occurs during the production of radioactive decay and in many chemical reactions as well as in scanning tunneling microscopes. Research scientist Peter Cristofolini described the creation of “new indivisible particles, made of both light and matter, which disappear through the slab-like walls of semiconductor at will.” Being in two places at once, these new electronic particles hold the promise of transferring ideas from atomic physics into practical devices, using quantum mechanics visible to the eye.

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