SCIENCE
07/25/2013 06:19 pm ET | Updated Jul 29, 2013

Light Stopped For Minute By German Researchers In Record-Breaking Study

Albert Einstein postulated that nothing is faster than the speed of light. But what if light was stopped dead in its tracks for, say, a minute? Impossible, right? Think again.

Researchers at the University of Darmstadt in Germany achieved an incredible feat when they stopped light for an entire minute inside a crystal.

In a paper about their research, published this month in the journal Physical Review Letters, the scientists explain how they stopped the light using a technique called electromagnetically induced transparency.

The researchers beamed a laser at an opaque crystal, triggering a quantum reaction that turned the crystal transparent. Then they directed a secondary light source at the crystal before cutting power to the laser to render the crystal opaque again.

What happened? The light from the secondary source remained trapped inside the crystal. Through multiple trials, the team was then able to extend the period of time in which the light remained halted within the crystal for up to a minute.

Though this is not the first time scientists have successfully stopped light, the German team smashed the previous record -- a fraction of a second -- set by scientists in 2011, New Scientist notes.

"One minute is extremely, extremely long," Thomas Krauss, a professor of optoelectronics at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K., told the weekly magazine. "This is indeed a major milestone."

Krauss was not involved in the German research.

The German team used the same technique to store an image within the crystal. The results may further light-based research and could make it possible to store data within beams of light, which could then be sent over long distances.

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