Harvard and MIT Bind Photons Like Light Sabers

Star Wars 1Researchers at MIT and Harvard say they have found a way to make photons bind together to form molecules – with the end result akin to a Star Wars’ light saber.

“It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to light sabers,” Harvard physics Prof. Mikhail Lukin said in a report. “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

Lukin and his colleagues at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms described their work in the professional journal Nature. Until now, getting light to bind together like molecules has been theoretical, since photons have historically been considered “massless,” and so not able to interact with each other.

The wizards of Cambridge seem to have changed that.

“What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules,” Lukin said.

Before you get your Jedi on, however, the researchers see this “new matter” as a tool for something quantum computing – using light instead of electricity to move data – and possibly for creating complex three-dimensional structures from light.

“What it will be useful for we don’t know yet, but it’s a new state of matter, so we are hopeful that new applications may emerge as we continue to investigate these photonic molecules’ properties,” Lukin said.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • Lance

    No I want a X Wing for a sixth generation fighter now.

  • mac

    Lukin and Luke, couldn’t be closer :)

    • Brangelina

      Luke + Anakin = Lukin

  • David

    Interesting, but I don’t see what it has to do with light sabers (and light sabers are silly anyway – even with 99.99% efficiency, it would melt in your hand in no time)

  • Humma Kavula

    One has to read the original text from phys.org before writing such rubbish. The effect was observable only when two photons exited scarcely populated cloud of atoms and by the cause of the effect was limited to such an super-hyper micronous extent. Nothing to do with military, but perhaps usable as a communication means. It’s impossible to weaponize photons in pairs.

  • blight_
  • A. Nonymous

    Ah, Lonestar. I see your Schwartz is as big as mine.

  • hibeam

    “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. Did we redefine the word binding? I didn’t get the memo.

  • Rest Pal

    Harvard and MIT, not a good combination in tech – Harvard is full of BS’ers and imposters.

    Btw, US Patriot 3 has lost out to China’s export version of its HQ-9 air-defense system in Turkey.

    The Chinese (export ver.) HQ-9 is allegedly the least sophisticated among 4 contenders, but it was the only one to hit all targets in tests. And it costs less than half of US Patriot 3.

  • mareo2

    “…and possibly for creating complex three-dimensional structures from light…”


  • How about a link to the actual paper?

  • sev

    hard light. Construct bridges and structures from hard light particles.

  • kenny

    it will be another TV Dimention, a true 3 dimentions tV that the TC i.e. traffic control have been yearning for for so long; since the 1950s…! that what will happen; if proven it will be another damn commercial box like our current TVs are!