Top boffins in the US say they have managed to make light behave in the same way as solid matter – and they've saved us the trouble by suggesting that this is pretty much the same as building a working Jedi light sabre.
"It's not an inapt analogy to compare this to light sabers," boasts Harvard physics prof Mikhail Lukin, one of the top brains involved in the new developments.
"The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies," he adds.
Lukin and his colleagues at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms say that they have managed to fashion molecules – which must in general be composed in humdrum style from atoms and so forth, things having mass – out of photons. They did this by a cunning process involving (as one really might have expected) ultracold atoms, in this case rubidium ones used to slow down individual photons to the point where they actually bound together into molecules.
Molecules made of light.
"We do this for fun," explains Lukin. "It's a new state of matter."
A press release from Harvard, highlighting the research, goes so far as to add:
Lukin also suggested that the system might one day even be used to create complex three-dimensional structures – such as crystals – wholly out of light.
It seems that the professor is well up on his Star Wars lore, as dedicated students of the Force will usually tell you that a crystal of some kind is necessary for a Jedi to construct his or her signature weapon.
Full detail is available, for those with the intellectual grunt to cope with it, here courtesy of hefty boffinry mag Nature. ®