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IPFS News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Lasers Made of 'Spacetime Wave Packets' Are Breaking the Normal Rules of Light

•, By Becky Ferreira

One of the most basic properties of light is that it changes speed and direction in different substances, such as water or air. This process, known as refraction, explains why a glass prism splits light into many colors and why a pool may appear shallower than it really is when viewed from a deck or diving board. 

Now, scientists have managed to defy this photonic principle with a special laser made of "spacetime wave packets" that do not slow down in denser materials, according to a recent study published in Nature Photonics. In fact, this new class of lasers can actually accelerate in a dense medium, among its many other optical superpowers.

Scientists led by Ayman Abouraddy, a professor of optics and photonics at the University of Central Florida, created these bizarre laser beams by linking their optical properties in both space and time, a tactic that unveiled "unexpected phenomena," according to the study.

"What happens when you go into a laser beam and manipulate the space and time aspects and correlate them with each other; connect them with each other?" Abouraddy said in a call. "Turns out, pretty much everything we know in optics is out of the window." 

You might be scratching your head over what constitutes the spatial and temporal aspects of a laser beam in the first place, and why they are normally kept separated.