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Physicists use light as 'subatomic zip tie' to create atom-like objects

Published: 25 August 2020
The research was led by Southampton’s Professor Simone De Liberato

An international study led by the University of Southampton has demonstrated for the first time how light can be used to glue together negative charges and create a novel form of matter.

The ground-breaking research, led by Physics and Astronomy's Professor Simone De Liberato, opens new possibilities for engineering novel artificial atoms with designer electronic configurations.

Researchers built upon a theoretical prediction from 2019 to fabricate a nanodevice that trapped electrons within nanoscopic wells.

When photons struck the device with a high enough energy they would extract electrons from the wells. The team then enclosed the device between two gold mirrors, dramatically increasing the interaction between light and matter.

The study observed that a negatively-charged electron would remain trapped, bound to the other negatively-charged electrons in a novel electronic configuration like a 'subatomic zip tie' stabilised by the photon.

Scientists have published their findings in the journal Nature Physics.

The technique will be used to broaden the catalogue of materials available to design photonic devices.

Read the full story on the main news page.

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