Holding Light (Temporarily) in Place

Storing light beams—putting an ensemble of photons, traveling through a specially prepared material, into a virtual standstill—has come a step closer to reality with a new discovery involving microwaves.

The research finds that microwaves traveling through a particular configuration of ceramic aluminum oxide rods can be made to hold in place for several microseconds. If the optical or infrared equivalent of this technology can be fabricated, then Internet and computer communications networks (each carried by optical and infrared laser pulses) might gain a new versatile tool that enables temporary, stationary storage of a packet of photons.