As Einstein first predicted back in 1909, scientists know that light can behave both as a wave and a particle. But so far, there wasn’t any experiment that is able to show light in both of these states at the same time, until now when researchers have gathered together and managed to take the very first photograph of light as both a particle and a wave at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
The main reason for solving this problem was the new experimental technique that is able to use electrons in order to capture the light’s movement. The work from the research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
In order to make this snapshot, the scientists shot laser pulses at a nanowire and the wavelengths of light has moved in two different directions along the metal. At the moment when the waves ran into each other, they looked like a wave that is standing still, which – of course, is effectively a particle.
And because they wanted to see how exactly the waves were moving, after they shot a beam of electrons at the nanowire, the particles in the light wave have changed the speed at which the electrons were moving and because of that, they were able to capture an image at the same moment when the waves have met.
“This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time so far, we can film quantum mechanics – and its paradoxical nature – directly,” said Fabrizio Carbone, who is one of the authors of the study, in a press release. Carbone is hoping that a better understanding of how precisely light functions can jumpstart the field of quantum computing.