Photo : Rui, J., Wei, D

The light mirror in the world consists of only 200 atoms.

German physicists have developed the most thin and light optical mirror. It consists of only one layer of atoms and is not visible to the human eye, but the reflection from it perfectly clear. Described in the journal Nature, writes

Usually the mirrors used polished metal surface or an optical glass with a special coating to improve performance and reduce weight.

Physicists from the Institute of quantum optics max Planck in Germany have created a new mirror-like metamaterial, which consists of a single structured layer containing only a few hundred of identical atoms. The atoms in it are located in a two-dimensional array of optical lattices formed by laser beams, and ordered by a regular scheme with a step, smaller than the wavelength of the optical transition of the atom. This is the first experimental results of a newly emerging research areas sub-wavelength quantum optics with ordered atoms.

Physicists have demonstrated that even a single structured layer of several hundreds of atoms can form an optical mirror, which makes it the lightest of all. The new mirror has a thickness of several tens of nanometers, which is a thousand times thinner than a human hair. A reflection from him, however, so strong that it can be observed even with the naked eye.

Metamaterials is an artificial structure with very specific properties not found in nature. These properties they acquire not because of the substances from which they are made, and thanks to the special designed internal structure.

The two most important intrinsic properties of the new mirror — regular pattern of atoms and the distance between the wavelengths modeling of lasers. The regular structure and the distance between the atoms on subway suppress the diffuse scattering of light, combining reflection and unidirectional stable beam of light.

In addition, due to the relatively close and discrete distances between the atoms, the incoming photon can be reflected between the atoms several times before it is reflected.

Both effects — suppressed scattering and running of photons — a result, according to the authors, to the “enhanced response to an external field”, which means a very strong reflection.

The mirror itself is very thin and invisible, but the device in which it is created is quite large. It has over thousands of individual optical components and weighs about two tons. Therefore, the new material is hardly used for domestic purposes, but the scientific value of the new development is enormous.

“The results are very interesting. As in the typical dilute volumetric ensembles, photon-mediated correlations between the atoms, which play an important role in our system, are usually not considered in traditional theories of quantum optics, is given in the press release of the Institute of quantum optics, the words of the first author Rui Jun (Jun Rui). — Ordered arrays of atoms, obtained by loading ultracold atoms in optical lattices, previously mainly been used to study the quantum simulation of condensed matter. But now it becomes a powerful platform for exploring new quantum-optical phenomena”.

“Quantum optomechanics — growing field of study of the quantum nature of light using mechanical devices, explains study leader, Dr. David Wei (David Wei). — Our work can help create a better quantum memory or even build optical mirror with a quantum switch. Both would be a major achievement in the field of information processing”.

Scientists believe that the continuation of basic research of interactions of light with matter will lead ultimately to the creation of efficient quantum devices.